For months we've speculated that Trump's willingness to publicly praise North Korea's non-existent progress toward disarming would signal to Russia and China that international sanctions no longer apply.
After all, if sanctions were intended to convince Kim Jong-un to give up his nuclear weapons, and if Trump says Kim has given up his nuclear weapons, why do we need sanctions? Why enforce them? Trump says everything is good now. Why not take Trump at his (obviously wrong) word?
But what do we know? Nothing, right?
Well, former and current Trump regime official say that's exactly what has happened. They also say Kim Jong-un has read Trump for a fool.
From the New York Times:
[Some] of the president’s top national security officials privately concede that Mr. Trump’s declaration in June that “there is no longer a nuclear threat” from North Korea was a huge error, because it was taken as a signal by China and Russia that the crisis was over and that they could resume trading with the country.
Current and former intelligence officials say new assessments suggest that Mr. Kim has carefully read Mr. Trump and concluded that as long as the optics are good, and the exchanges between the two leaders are warm, he can hold off demands for progress toward disarmament. If Mr. Kim does not conduct tests, Mr. Trump is unlikely to call out evidence of a continued nuclear buildup.
“I’m shocked at how superficial things have been,” said Jung H. Pak, the C.I.A.’s mission leader for North Korea until she left last year for the Brookings Institution.
At the end of the day I may be a foreign policy layman, but I think this is well within the understanding of most people.
Imposing international sanctions was intended to raise pressure on North Korea and Kim Jong-un specifically, but Trump unilaterally lifted all of the pressure without a single goal of sanctions being met. President Deals literally gave the whole game away on a handshake.
Now, ask yourself, if you were Russia or China, would you still be committed to enforcing sanctions? I wouldn't be. Sanctions don't serve their interests and Trump said everything is okay now. We can all go home.
North Korea won't just have a nuclear arsenal when Trump leaves office, they'll have an even bigger one constructed through unimpeded progress.