Wednesday, April 17, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Summit fever wasn’t exactly a problem in Washington last week. In fact, aside from those with a stake in observing, analyzing and assessing South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s summit with President Donald Trump, most people hardly noticed it.
That’s because eyes and ears are on what Trump sees as an immediate hazard: the inundation of America by a tidal wave of unwanted, undesirable illegal immigrants. Watching the TV news and reading the headlines, one might have thought the United States was almost under attack by greedy, needy people from south of the border. For Trump, Moon’s visit was almost an interruption, a diversion, a time slot in between a much greater issue, the threat posed by “illegals” who just keep coming in ever greater, uncontrollable numbers.
It was because of his frustration with the failure to stem the tide that Trump ordered a veritable purge of those he held responsible for not doing nearly enough about it. Not just the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security but the director of the Secret Service, responsible for guarding the president and foreign diplomats, were kicked out along with dozens of others. In some countries, including North Korea, some of them would surely have been executed, but in the United States they were free to drop hints and innuendos to journalists, appear on talk shows and discuss book contracts.
Not that Trump does not see the value of Korea in his overall game plan. Korea to Trump is a sidebar in the story of his campaign for survival in the White House. No, he might not get impeached, as his enemies would dearly like, but he also might not be re-elected in 2020. Trump’s vision is 20-20. He’s got his eyes focused on the showdown a year and a half from now when voters finally get a chance to throw out the man who achieved the ultimate miracle in 2016, winding up more than 3 million votes behind in the overall count but winning enough votes in America’s peculiar Electoral College to go to the White House.
Korea fits beautifully into the game plan. Trump still needs to be the man who negotiated away the North Korean nuclear threat, who set the conditions under which the two Koreas could reunite, who got Kim Jong Un to see the error of his ways and stop terrorizing people, both his own and everyone else. He would love to boast of his success in bringing peace to the Korean peninsula after all the failures and disappointments shared by his predecessors.
He may dream of his other legacy, that of the man who stopped desperate people from Mexico and Central America from polluting the clean atmosphere of the United States, but his greatest legacy would be that of Korean War peacemaker. That’s tough, considering that he may also go down as the idiot who drank the Kool-Aid and fell for the false assurances of a dictator who’s never kept any of his promises.
Trump would prefer to dwell on America’s porous southern border than worry about the 4-kilometer-wide strip that’s divided the Korean peninsula since the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953. Or, conceivably, he might like to imitate the DMZ, building a zone between Mexico and the United States that’s impossible for any of those gangsters and criminals, as he sees them, to breach.
For Trump, Kim is more a role model than an enemy — one who gets rid of those who displease him. Trump sees Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and China’s President Xi Jinping in much the same way — shrewd dictators with scant regard for the welfare of their people.
While strengthening defenses against unarmed, impoverished masses from Latin America, Trump has no idea what to do about Russia and China. He might admire Putin, as he admires Kim Jong Un, but he’s got trouble there.
The report by the special counsel Robert Mueller undoubtedly contains juicy details of his relationship with Putin that we’re not going to see. Trump doesn’t want it known how close he was to Putin, who’s built a latter-day version of the Iron Curtain, deepening the rift between East and West, between Mother Russia and the NATO alliance that Trump intensely dislikes.
Trump would rather get on the right side of Putin, Xi Jinping too, in the interests of peace and harmony from eastern Europe to the western Pacific. While eager to polish his relationship with Kim Jong Un, he has high hopes of building on past friendships with the Russian and Chinese presidents.
It’s those ragtag hordes sneaking illegally into the United States that Trump sees as his worst enemy. Like any bully, he picks on defenseless illegals while kowtowing before dictators.
Donald Kirk has been a columnist for the Korea Times and South China Morning Post, among other newspapers and magazines. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.