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The U.S.-North Korea summit was a step toward peace


President Trump talks to supporters at a rally Thursday, May 10, in Elkhart, Indiana. Trump met with North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore.  Matt Begala Buy Photos

The most-watched news anchor on cable television, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, seems to have an almost superhuman ability to tie all the news of Trump’s presidency into her wild conspiracy theories about “Russiagate,” never letting a stark lack of evidence get in her way.

I’m not talking about the real question of whether any Trump campaign officials cooperated with a Russian government effort to help Trump get elected. I am talking about the absurd view that Trump, despite being significantly more hostile to Russian interests than Obama was, is somehow working for the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It is with this superhuman ability to ignore evidence that Maddow incorporated the Singapore summit between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un into her Trump-Putin conspiracy theories.

Maddow suggested on her primetime show last week that Trump agreed to suspend U.S.-South Korean military exercises on the Korean peninsula simply because Putin demanded he do so. She presented exactly two pieces of “evidence”: 1) that North Korea shares a border with Russia, and 2) that the Russian government is on record as supportive of the decision.

Maddow may be one of only a few voices tying the Singapore summit into “Russiagate,” but she is far from being the only liberal opinion-maker to attack Trump from the right over his diplomacy with North Korea.

Democrats have developed a near-consensus since the Singapore summit concluded June 12 that Trump ought to be criticized for it.

Some of the criticism has been over comments Trump made praising Kim Jong-un’s personality and leadership. That criticism is justified. Kim Jong-un deserves no praise for his appalling treatment of his people. But many other criticisms are not justified.

Trump has taken a lot of heat over pledging to suspend the military exercises that the U.S. and South Korea have been conducting on the Korean peninsula for decades. As Maddow correctly outlined in the same segment mentioned above, North Korea has voiced its opposition to these exercises for years, and they’ve sparked several flare-ups in tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Many pundits were incensed to hear Trump describe these war games as “provocative,” but this was actually a rare moment when Trump, a president who lies constantly, spoke an uncomfortable truth.

Consider what these exercises consist of: thousands of American troops and several hundred thousand South Korean troops rehearse an invasion of North Korea and the assassination of all its top leaders. 

Imagine if the U.S.’s enemies conducted such drills within a few miles of its borders. Imagine one of those enemies had ruthlessly devastated the United States 65 years prior with chemical weapons and over half a million tons of bombs, as the U.S. did to North Korea from 1950 to 1953. It would be seen as beyond “provocative.”

Reconciliation between the U.S. and North Korea is impossible without calling off these war games. Democrats have complained all Trump got in return was a promise of denuclearization which Kim may walk back on. But the suspension of the war games can be reversed just as easily.

The document signed by the two leaders in Singapore is vague, of course. The summit was the beginning of what will hopefully be a reconciliation process, not the end of it. Details about the timeline of the denuclearization process and verification mechanisms need to be specified in future negotiations, which the two nations have now pledged to hold.

It’s entirely possible that Trump, who has a shocking ineptitude for foreign relations, will botch the rest of this process. But the summit in Singapore was undoubtedly a step toward peace. Although the denuclearization process has yet to start, there has been a vast improvement in the relationship between two nations that not long ago were threatening to inflict nuclear holocausts upon the world.

North Korea is showing a desire for reconciliation. It destroyed its nuclear testing site and released American hostages last month. Now it’s returning the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War. 

As a result, Trump couldn’t resist telling the laughable lie that “thousands of people” begged him during the campaign to secure the remains of their children who fought in Korea — where hostilities ended in 1953.

That aside, this rapprochement has significantly lowered the risk of nuclear war. So why do Democrats insist on standing in the way? 

Senators Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., have introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2019 that imposes limits on the president’s ability to withdraw any of the roughly 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea.

The Korean War effectively ended 65 years ago. The idea that we need 28,500 troops stationed there indefinitely at taxpayers’ expense only makes sense if you believe the U.S. must be a global empire. Withdrawing those troops needs to be on the table.

Democrats should stop letting their justified hatred of Trump stand in the way of their ability to recognize steps toward peace that should have been taken long ago.

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