Eager to take away from one of the most historic moments of Donald Trump’s presidency, The New York Times reported this week that the Trump administration was preparing to sign an agreement with North Korea that would amount to a nuclear “freeze” for the Hermit Kingdom. That agreement would allow the reclusive country to keep all the nukes they currently have in stock, but it would prevent them from building any more of them. Essentially, it would mean that the Trump administration was giving up on its plans for denuclearization and accepting North Korea as a nuclear power in its own right.
In a tweet on Monday, National Security Adviser John Bolton said the story was absolute nonsense.
“I read this NYT story with curiosity,” said Bolton. “Neither the NSC staff nor I have discussed or heard of any desire to ‘settle for a nuclear freeze by NK.’ This was a reprehensible attempt by someone to box in the President. There should be consequences.”
The Times reported on Sunday that despite the “masterpiece of drama” that was Trump’s first steps into North Korean territory, Americans should not be fooled:
For weeks before the meeting, which started as a Twitter offer by the president for Mr. Kim to drop by at the Demilitarized Zone and “say hello,” a real idea has been taking shape inside the Trump administration that officials hope might create a foundation for a new round of negotiations.
The concept would amount to a nuclear freeze, one that essentially enshrines the status quo, and tacitly accepts the North as a nuclear power, something administration officials have often said they would never stand for.
It falls far short of Mr. Trump’s initial vow 30 months ago to solve the North Korea nuclear problem, but it might provide him with a retort to campaign-season critics who say the North Korean dictator has been playing the American president brilliantly by giving him the visuals he craves while holding back on real concessions.
To be sure, even getting North Korea to commit to a permanent nuclear freeze would go a damn sight further than any of Trump’s predecessors to reining in this madman’s kingdom. And it may very well be that the Trump administration wants to solidify that middle step before moving on to full denuclearization. That doesn’t mean that negotiations end there, it just means that this is a process that will take time, trust, and slow progress to get where we need to be.
A media that wasn’t desperate to tear this president down at every opportunity would get that and explain it to their readers.