Tom Goodenough

Trump’s critics should give him the credit he deserves for Korea

Trump’s critics should give him the credit he deserves for Korea
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Donald Trump’s critics waste little time in condemning him. Whether it’s an ill-judged gaffe or a spelling mistake in a tweet, pointing the finger at a president some love to hate is a popular exercise in virtue signalling. But those who shout the loudest about Trump’s misdemeanours seem to be curiously quiet when The Donald does actually get things right – not least when it comes to North Korea. After all, it’s no coincidence that today's historic summit on the Korean peninsula has happened on Trump’s watch.

While Barack Obama prevaricated over what to do about North Korea, making little headway in dealing with Pyongyang – and arguably making things worse – it is hard to ignore a simple fact: Trump’s brazen warning to the 'Rocket man' promising ‘fire and fury’ has paid off in bringing Kim Jong-un waddling to the negotiating table. Yes, it's true that it isn't all thanks to Trump. But doesn't Donald deserve at least a bit of credit? 

South Korea’s foreign minister, Kang Kyung-wha, certainly thinks so. In an interview on CNN, Kyung-wha was asked how she accounted for the sudden progress in relations between the North and the South. Her answer was clear: Donald Trump. Here’s what she said:

‘Clearly credit goes to President Trump. He has been determined to come to grips with this from day one…I think presidents Moon (Jae-in, of South Korea) and Trump have worked very closely together, sometimes in complementarity, sometimes in different messaging. But the levels of consultations and confidence between the two leaders has been instrumental in bringing us to this point’

So there you have it. Of course, it’s too early to say the situation in Korea has been resolved for good. No one is suggesting that, and only time will tell whether Kim  means it when he promises to give peace a chance. What's more, as Oliver Lewis points out on Coffee House, Kim’s words should, for now, be taken with a big pinch of salt. But nonetheless, there is good reason for optimism. After all, it's been 65 years since a North Korean leader strayed across the border into the South on friendly terms. And that is, as Kyung-wha suggests, at the very least partly thanks to Trump.

Yet for Trump’s many, usually noisy, critics, admitting as much doesn’t come easily. Take the Guardian’s Owen Jones, for example, who has vowed to greet Trump’s visit to Britain in July with a ‘carnival against hatred’. Today, Jones has been busy condemning the president as a ‘racist demagogue’ in a piece for the Guardian in which he writes that:

‘Trump represents an exceptional danger. And that’s why we must all march.’

Let's not pretend that Trump is perfect. Far from it. But an 'exceptional danger'? This morning's events in Korea suggest otherwise, and it’s a shame Jones – and Trump’s other critics – can’t join South Korea’s foreign minister in giving Trump some credit for a change.