Donald Trump is an exceptionally disappointing president whose misguided approach to foreign affairs was highlighted by the temper tantrum with which he concluded the G7 summit in Canada. Trump was so off the rails that the office of the French president released a statement declaring that “International co-operation cannot be dictated by fits of anger and throwaway remarks.” After Trump instructed his aides not to sign a communiqué between the seven nations, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said, “It’s actually not a real surprise, we have seen this with the climate agreement or the Iran deal. In a matter of seconds, you can destroy trust with 280 Twitter characters. To build that up again will take much longer.”
So it is entirely appropriate to be skeptical about Trump’s ability to deal in a productive manner with foreign leaders. But that skepticism ought not prevent Americans from encouraging whatever positive steps may be taken by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the historic Singapore summit.
Congressman Ro Khanna offers an example of how this can be done. The California Democrat has been one of President Trump’s most ardent critics on domestic and foreign-policy issues. Yet he has been outspoken in expressing his hopes for talks that seek to dial down tensions on the Korean Peninsula. “The only way to solve this conflict with North Korea is bilateral diplomacy,” argues the Congressional Progressive Caucus vice chair. “There are no military solutions.”
When Trump and members of his administration seemed to derail the process in May, Khanna urged the president to “reverse his terrible decision to withdraw from this historic summit with Kim Jong-Un,” and said, “Continuing down the path of aggression will only bring us closer to all-out nuclear war.”
When the summit got back on track, Khanna celebrated the breakthrough. That’s because, he explains, face-to-face talks represent “a major opportunity to end the Korean War which has continued for almost seven decades.”
The congressman wants the process to work, and he knows this will require initial flexibility on all sides. To that end, Khanna has chastised top Democrats who tried even before the talks began to establish rigorous standards for what would be acceptable in a deal. After Senate minority leader Charles Schumer, D-New York, and several other senators signed on to a letter that was described as “a set of tough demands for any prospective nuclear pact,” Khanna signaled that he was not on the same page with his Schumer.
“Let me be clear,” he declared. “Chuck Schumer does not speak for the Democratic Party concerning North Korea and Iran. It’s sad that his hawkish message is undermining [South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s] diplomatic efforts. He does not represent the new generation or new progressive foreign policy vision.”