Kim Jong Un, the North Korean dictator, is a dynastic global threat whose regime has American blood on its hands. He is not trustworthy. Nothing about this week’s Singapore summit with President Trump changes the damning truth about this despot.
And, yet, Trump has legitimized Kim and his hermit nation’s legacy just days after alienating the United States’ strongest allies at the G7 conference in Canada.
What has happened to America’s distaste for the worst violators of human rights?
A 2014 United Nations report detailed the worst of North Korea’s human-rights crimes, which “entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”
North Korea’s Stalinistic influences are profound, UN data show. As many as 120,000 political prisoners are imprisoned in hidden camps bereft of adequate food and clothing. “Prisoners are starved, forced to work, tortured and raped. Reproductive rights are denied through forced abortions and infanticide. Some are executed — sometimes in public. Hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have died in the camps over the past 50 years,” according to The New York Times.
Kim, the son and grandson of this reclusive communist nation’s first two leaders, rules through brutality. Kim Yong-jin, North Korea’s deputy premier for education, was murdered by firing squad in 2016 for showing “disrespectful posture” in a meeting. A North Korea general, Hyon Yong-chol, was executed with an antiaircraft gun for sleeping in a meeting. Jang Song-thaek, a Kim uncle accused of treason, was killed with antiaircraft guns.
Kim had his body incinerated with flamethrowers.
And then there’s Otto Warmbier, the U.S. college student arrested for attempted theft during a North Korea study-abroad program in January 2016. Warmbier suffered a still-undisclosed neurological injury while in country and died more than a year later when Kim allowed his release. The North Koreans kept the American’s medical condition hidden until just before sending home, thus preventing him from the care he required.
Trump expects global praise for his historic summit with Kim, the first time a U.S. president has met with a North Korean leader. He’ll get some of that. But he also wants America and its allies to trust that the milquetoast agreement the two men signed in Singapore signals a true commitment to Kim’s denuclearization — a promise Kim has broken before. For Trump, it’s as much about praise and theater than results. Good press is his catnip.
The Singapore agreement is a weak sister to previous agreements between the United States and North Korea, and the president’s decision to halt military exercises with South Korea, a U.S. ally, risks that relationship. Kim, diminutive and soft-spoken alongside the bombastic Manhattan real-estate developer, won the summit. Trump feted him and legitimized him, which couldn’t happen without U.S. assistance, and allowed Kim to stick a finger in South Korea’s eye.
American presidents don’t stand on stages, hand in hand, with brutal autocrats, ignoring their awful record of human-rights abuses. Until now, that is, and until Trump, who cares more about his reputation than the nation’s.