James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said President Donald Trump never stood a chance of reaching a denuclearization deal during last week’s talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“From both a process and a substance standpoint, I think the summit was doomed from the get-go,” Clapper, now a CNN analyst, told the network Tuesday of the Trump-Kim meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam.
A key problem, Clapper said, was that the U.S. and North Korea haven’t agreed on the meaning of denuclearization and what would entail for Kim’s regime.
Further, Clapper said, it appeared that aides to the two leaders prepared nothing ahead of time for an agreement, making the summit little more than a round of negotiations rather than a deal-making occasion.
“I think just a lack of preparation, or a combination of that and perhaps the president’s hubris ― he thought he could charm King Jong Un into agreeing to anything and it isn’t sufficient for us simply to demand that the North Koreans denuclearize when the only apparent promise is we’ll be less coercive,” Clapper said.
Clapper, who has frequently clashed with Trump in the past, nevertheless gave the president props.
“To his credit ... the president did walk away,” he said. “No deal is better than a bad deal.”
He did, however, criticize Trump’s decision to scale back U.S. joint military exercises with South Korea. The president claimed the drills were being cut to ease tensions and “save hundreds of millions of dollars.” Clapper said they’re important for South Korean defense.
Last year, Trump decided to end the Freedom Guardian drill between the two countries, making a similar cost-saving claim. A round of the exercises consumed roughly $14 million of the U.S. military’s almost $700 billion budget in 2018, according to officials who spoke with Reuters.