Trump's Foreign Policy
LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:
Let's turn now to Ambassador Wendy Sherman. She was North Korea policy coordinator in the Clinton administration, and she led the Iran nuclear agreement negotiating team for President Obama.
Welcome to the program.
WENDY SHERMAN: Good to be with you this morning.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right, your reaction to this meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong un.
SHERMAN: I think the president said it himself. This is about looking good. (Laughter) He said that if Kim had not shown up, he wouldn't have looked good to the press or looked good to the world. And so Kim was responsible for making them both look good. I think the real question here is, as your reporter said, what happened in those 45 or 50 minutes? Is there a real negotiating track that has begun? Can Steve Biegun, the special envoy assigned to do this, have a counterpart who doesn't have to worry about being killed if he doesn't deliver the goods? Was - did the president give anything up in those 50 minutes? Is there any there (ph) there?
You know, the president came to this after a G-20 meeting in Osaka, Japan, where he met with virtually every authoritarian leader on the face of the earth. And in each of those meetings, it appeared that America gave - President Trump gave more than he got. And it remains to be seen whether that's exactly what happened here as well.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You have dealt with North Korea. Tell us what they are thinking, if you can because there's been very little movement, as you note, so far in talks with the U.S. despite these made-for-TV moments.
SHERMAN: Indeed. North Koreans play a very weak hand extremely well. Remember, they are a country that is a true dictatorship, cut off from most of the rest of the world. Virtually all of their economic support comes from China. They don't have enough arable land to feed their own people. So they go through times of real famine and malnutrition of their people. There are no human rights. There - there's no opening to the rest of the world, to be sure.
And I think that they have nuclear weapons. They have the missiles that can deliver those nuclear weapons. And although the president will say that he's made great progress because North Korea has not tested a nuclear weapon since these - this bromance began, indeed, Kim Jong Un has continued to build nuclear weapons. He has continued to improve his missile technology. And so he moves forward while, in many ways, the negotiations - other than the photo ops - stand still.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have heard other North Korea watchers say, though, that yes, this is unorthodox, but it is something different. And it may yield results where perhaps other types of more traditional negotiations have not.
SHERMAN: Yes, I supported the initial summit in Singapore for that very reason, that sometimes you have to try something novel and different. But you have to try something novel and different when you have a plan, a strategy, a team to follow through, you know what your next five moves are going to be and how to change them if, in fact, the other side doesn't operate in the way that you assumed. I think that that didn't happen in Singapore. Then Secretary Pompeo brought on Steve Biegun to be the special envoy. He put a team together. He did the kind of diplomatic consultations that are necessary.
But the president kept, in some ways, pulling the rug out from under Mr. Biegun by really saying to Kim Jong Un, I'm the only one who matters; just deal with me. So we'll see whether in fact we now have a real negotiating process that's getting way - because some work has to be done at working levels to really make progress here. The president's not going to knock out a very detailed agreement with North Korea.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Ambassador Wendy Sherman, who worked on the North Korea policy in the Clinton administration.
Thank you very much.
SHERMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.