In a rare public appearance at Stanford University on Thursday, Donald Trump’s envoy to North Korea offered the most candid and detailed road map yet for the administration’s nuclear talks with Kim Jong Un. It was, as he acknowledged, extremely ambitious.
“I have this perfect outcome moment where the last nuclear weapon leaves North Korea, the sanctions are lifted, the flag goes up in the embassy [of the United States in Pyongyang], and the [peace] treaty is signed in the same hour,” said Stephen Biegun, just weeks before Trump is due to meet with Kim for a second summit on his signature foreign-policy initiative.
Yet hours later, in Washington, D.C., the president did something seemingly unrelated that nevertheless challenged Biegun’s vision. Trump announced plans to pull the United States out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, a Cold War–era pact with Russia that eliminated a whole class of nuclear weapons.
It was his second withdrawal from an arms-control or nuclear-nonproliferation agreement, following the United States’ departure last year from the nuclear deal that his predecessor negotiated with Iran and other world powers. And it was in keeping with the Trump administration’s exit from other Barack Obama–era international pacts, ranging from the Paris climate accord to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement. A recent White House rundown of the president’s accomplishments during his first two years in office includes, by The Atlantic’s count, three scrapped deals, two renegotiated deals, five negotiations or renegotiations of deals that are in the works (including Trump’s threatened withdrawal from the Universal Postal Union), and no brand new deals.