Trump came bearing gifts when he met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un on Monday, offering up a rather stunning concession in the process, according to former CIA director Michael Hayden.
Trump’s announcement that the U.S. would suspend military exercises on the Korean Peninsula, while dismissing the “war games” as “provocative,” means North Korea has already bagged a significant victory.
“The North Koreans did not come with anything new” to the summit, Hayden stressed during a Tuesday interview on CNN. “The new element is that we agreed to stop our annual exercise cycle with our South Koran allies. That’s actually a pretty big concession.”
All the U.S. got in return was a vague assurance that there would be “follow-on negotiations” led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a high-level North Korean official “at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes” of the summit meeting, the New York Times reported.
Calling off the military exercises is a big deal because, “We’ve got a fairly light footprint in South Korean,” Hayden explained.
“We’ve got a brigade up by the Demilitarized Zone and then an Air Force fighter wing or two. The whole defense of South Korea is based upon our ability, and the North and South Korea’s knowledge of our ability, to flow forces to the peninsula quickly for the defense of South Korea. That’s why we do the exercises. They’re about the defense of the south.”
Worse, Trump adopted North Korea’s rhetoric in the process. “The president calling them ‘provocative,’ unfortunately, takes the language out of the North Korea propaganda machine,” said Hayden.
Trump downplayed the significance of the military exercises, claiming they were a waste of money.
“You know, we’re spending a fortune, every couple of months we’re doing war games with South Korea, and I said, ‘What’s this costing?’ We’re flying planes in from Guam, we’re bombing empty mountains for practice,” Trump told ABC News on Tuesday. “I said ‘I want to stop that and I will stop that, and I think it’s very provocative.”
Note that the Pentagon’s annual budget is $700 billion, which comes out to nearly $2 billion per-day. It’s unlikely that the military exercises on the Korean Peninsula have been straining the budget.
While offering up concessions, Trump also managed to play right into North Korea’s hands by elevating the despotic leader’s standing on the world stage:
N.Koreans were adamant summit optics portray US & NK on level footing, per US official involved. “They wanted to make sure both in ceremony and in security…that we’re presenting to the world an image that presents them as equals. The N. Koreans were very conscious of that.” pic.twitter.com/GEdCEqILcU
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) June 12, 2018