More than half all Americans say they support the way President Donald Trump handled the historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12, according to an opinion poll by Reuters/Ipsos released on June 13.
Trump and Kim concluded the meeting by signing a joint statement, which states that the two leaders would work to achieve lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and that Kim is committed to complete denuclearization. Six out of 10 Americans said they either believe that the leaders would follow through on their promises or are still unsure.
Americans credited Trump above other world leaders for the summit and the joint pledge. Survey takers were four times as likely to credit Trump than the second leader on the list, South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Forty percent gave Trump credit, compared to 11 percent for Moon, and 7 percent for Kim.
Trump received a 51 percent approval rating for the summit.
In the joint statement, Kim also agreed to let the United States repatriate the remains of American soldiers who perished in the Korean War. Beyond the written agreement, Trump promised Kim to call off the war games while active negotiations continue. Kim promised Trump he would destroy a ballistic missile testing site.
Roughly 4 out of 10 Americans believe that the summit reduced the threat of nuclear war between the United States and Pyongyang’s communist regime.
The lack of confidence could be attributed to past failures by past administrations and to a media narrative that the summit didn’t bring about an instant solution to a complex, decades-old problem.
The historic document is the first bilateral agreement between an American president and a North Korean leader.
“Make no mistake: The world should welcome Donald Trump’s bold move to engage Kim Jong Un,” Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer wrote in an editorial for The Hill. “A lasting peace for the Korean Peninsula, if it can be accomplished at all, will take years to accomplish.”
“No one should ever have expected that Trump and Kim could solve a decades-old problem in a single afternoon,” Bremmer said. “The leaders of these two nuclear-armed nations are talking about peace rather than war, and Kim has taken concrete steps to sharply improve relations with all his neighbors except Japan.”
From the early days of his tenure, Trump instituted a “maximum pressure campaign” to force North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons. The president rallied international allies to impose the toughest sanctions in decades. Trump coupled economic pressure with a sizable military presence, sending an armada of aircraft carriers and warships to the Korean Peninsula.
Throughout 2017, Kim continued to test ballistic missiles. Pyongyang also claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb. But at the beginning of this year, Trump’s strategy forced the communist leader’s hand. Kim signaled a willingness to talk, and Trump accepted the offer once Pyongyang committed to discussing complete denuclearization.
Republicans were overwhelmingly more enthusiastic than Democrats about the outcome of the summit. Republican respondents were twice as likely as Democrats to say that the meeting lowered the chance of nuclear war and three times as likely to believe that both sides would follow through on their commitments.
Republican lawmakers and governors showered Trump with praise on the heels of the summit.
“Congratulations to President Trump bringing this about. This is an historic opportunity to end the Korean War, get North Korea to give up their weapons and missiles that threaten us and the world in return for security guarantees and prosperity,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in a statement.
Trump’s approval rating among Democrats is usually low, but in the case of the summit, approximately 30 percent backed Trump’s work on the summit, compared to the 12 percent who approved of his overall job performance.
On a return flight to Washington, Trump said that the summit removed the threat of nuclear war. In addition to the tight sanctions and military presence, Trump also broke from decades of diplomatic practice by using Twitter as a communication platform and a video resembling a film trailer as a persuasive device.
At the summit, Trump showed Kim a Hollywood trailer-style video illustrating a bright future for North Korea if Kim abandoned nuclear weapons.
Before the summit, more than 3 out of 4 Americans supported Trump’s decision to meet with Kim, according to a CNN poll.
Impact on Voters
On the campaign trail, Trump said that denuclearizing North Korea is his top foreign policy goal. The president, who believes the problem could have been dealt with long ago, blames previous administrations for failing to rein in the communist regime’s nuclear program.
Some experts say it is too early to tell whether Trump’s win with North Korea will have an impact on voters, but the results of the June 12 primaries offer a hint. Voters in South Carolina ousted incumbent anti-Trump Republican Mark Sanford in favor of Katie Arrington, a state representative who made support of Trump a central part of her campaign.
Trump said on Twitter that he was advised against announcing his support in the race, but sent a message of support for Arrington three hours before polls closed. Arrington received 50.6 percent of the vote, compared to Sanford’s 46.5 percent.
Alice Stewart, a Republican strategist, said it’s too early to determine whether the summit will have a positive impact on voters.
“It’s a good step to have the conversation, but that doesn’t yet mean that it’s a success,” she said.
Republican strategist Ron Bonjean said it would have been more likely for voters to be influenced if there had been serious and measurable progress closer to the election.
The Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll was conducted online in English, from June 12 to 13 in the United States. It gathered responses from more than 1,000 adults, including more than 400 Democrats and 400 Republicans. It has a credibility interval, a measure of the poll’s precision, of 4 percentage points for the full sample and 6 percentage points for the Democrats and Republicans, meaning that the results could vary in either direction by that amount.
Both Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized American media for their flawed reporting on the summit.
Many media outlets have taken on the narrative that the agreement signed between Trump and Kim was not significant, ignoring the fact that just months ago, North Korea had threatened to strike the United States with nuclear weapons.
Responding to a question by a reporter on June 13 about why the words “verifiable and irreversible” were not in the statement signed by Trump and Kim, Pompeo said, “It’s in the statement. You’re just wrong about that.
“Because ‘complete’ encompasses verifiable and irreversible.”
The president also weighed in on the reports, in a tweet on June 13.
“So funny to watch the Fake News, especially NBC and CNN. They are fighting hard to downplay the deal with North Korea. 500 days ago they would have “begged” for this deal—looked like war would break out. Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools!”
So funny to watch the Fake News, especially NBC and CNN. They are fighting hard to downplay the deal with North Korea. 500 days ago they would have “begged” for this deal-looked like war would break out. Our Country’s biggest enemy is the Fake News so easily promulgated by fools!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 13, 2018
The New York Times went as far as making an edited version of a video the White House had prepared for Kim Jong Un in an attempt to discredit the president’s efforts.
The video features selectively edited clips of Trump in Singapore that paints a highly misleading picture of the nuclear negotiations.
The New York Times had been among the most vocal media outlets last year to suggest that peace with North Korea was not possible to achieve.
Epoch Times reporter Jasper Fakkert and Reuters contributed to this report.