If North Korea, Why Not Iran

Jun 15, 2018

At the historic summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea's Chairman Kim Jong Un, a bold step was taken toward establishing a new relationship between two countries that have been estranged for decades.

In a joint statement signed by both men, “President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” The leaders pledged “to cooperate for the development of new U.S.–DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.”

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference after his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. June 12, 2018.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference after his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. June 12, 2018.

In a press conference following the summit, President Trump spoke not only of North Korea, but also of another adversarial regime whose nuclear weapons ambitions have long raised concern: Iran. In May President Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal that lifted nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in return for Iran's limiting its nuclear activities. In explaining his decision to withdraw, President Trump said the deal was defective, and, that under its structure, an Iranian nuclear bomb could not be prevented.

At the press conference in Singapore, President Trump expressed the hope that Iran's leaders “come back and negotiate a real deal, because,” he said, “I'd love to be able to do that.” He noted that the appropriate time for such negotiations may come after the stringent sanctions the United States is re-imposing on the Iranian regime “kick in.” Even now, the President said, the confidence of Iran's leaders appears to be diminishing:

“I think Iran is a different country now than it was three or four months ago. I don't think they're looking so much to the Mediterranean. I don't think they're looking so much at Syria like they were with total confidence. I don't think they're so confident right now.”

In speaking of North Korea and the possibility of a new relationship with the United States, President Trump made a statement that Iran's leaders too should ponder: “The past does not have to define the future...As history has proven over and over again, adversaries can indeed become friends.” He emphasized that the United States and North Korea are “at the beginning of an arduous process. Our eyes are wide open,” he said, “but peace is always worth the effort.”