Here’s the moment of levity from the isolated White House press room in Singapore (picture: Tim Shorrock), where the elite reporters covering a historic summit between the US and North Korea blithely ignore South Korea. Thanks to Seth Mountain for his input from Seoul. https://www.thenation.com/…/trump-meets-kim-averting-threa…/
At one point on Monday afternoon, as the room waited for Pompeo to arrive, I observed a senior Times reporter in deep conversation with his fellow reporters from ABC News and the Post. As they laughed about the next day’s expected encounter between Trump and Kim, the Timesman joked that he was “covering the Neville Chamberlain summit”—a reference to the British diplomat’s disastrous encounter with Adolf Hitler just before World War II that’s considered a symbol of appeasement the world over. To South Korea, however, the peace talks with North Korea are a matter of life and death.
The lack of interest by the US press corps in how the talks would affect South Koreans was underscored during the press conference with Trump. About half the questions from the White House crew focused on the wisdom of a US president meeting with a dictator—as if this had never occurred before—or how the North Korea talks might affect other aspects of US foreign relations.
About halfway through the hourlong event, a Korean reporter started shouting “South Korea! South Korea!” to divert the discussion back to the impact on his country. Eventually, Trump recognized a woman from Arirang News, who brought the issue home by asking if Trump would be speaking soon to President Moon (yes) and if he was optimistic about the prospects of a peace treaty (yes again).
Watching the spectacle from Seoul on CNN, Seth Mountain, an American teacher and musician, told me that he and his Korean friends found the press behavior insulting. “Nearly every question presupposes a US right to dominate Korea and decide its fate,” he told me in a Facebook message. Media critic Adam Johnson, a sometime contributor to The Nation, had a similar reaction after watching Rachel Maddow on MSNBC rip into Trump’s cancellation of the US–South Korean war games.
“Complete, categorical erasure of South Koreans and South Korean left,” he tweeted. “The easiest, cheapest NatSec-flattering banality. Totally partisan myopia.” That about summarizes the US coverage of what may turn out to be the most important diplomatic achievement of the Trump years.