You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Trump’s diplomatic theater is yielding dubious results in North Korea and Iran.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

In recent months the president has repeatedly met with foreign leaders, seemingly enjoying the pageantry, the attention, and the chance to proclaim victory on policy goals. Political observers have disagreed about the extent of substantive change these proclamations have actually reflected. And now, a new data point lands squarely on the skeptics’ side.

Trump has proclaimed that “so many things have happened” as a result of the North Korea talks. But The Washington Post reported late Monday that “U.S. spy agencies have discovered North Korea is building new missiles at the factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).” As the Post’s Aaron Blake notes, “That news comes on top of reporting from shortly after the Trump-Kim summit that U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded North Korea wasn’t serious about fully surrendering its nuclear stockpile. This surrender would be the necessary condition—and indeed, the whole point—of the ongoing diplomatic negotiations.”

Trump has similarly oversold his success in dealing with the European Union and NATO allies.

Trump is now saying he’s receptive to meeting with the Iranian President. In principle, this is a good idea, but much depends on the execution. If Trump follows the pattern of his earlier summits and uses it to boast of non-existent achievements, there is little point. The Iranians themselves seem to sense this, since they are turning a cold shoulder to the idea, saying the meeting would have “no value” and would be “a humiliation.”