U.S.-North Korea summit may be canceled

Already, without anything substantive happening save joint U.S.-South Korean air force exercises (perhaps unwise, but not a deal-breaker), Kim Jong-un is messing with the scheduled peace talks, canceling the ones with South Korea and threatening the ones with the U.S. As usual, the Dearest Leader is messing with the U.S., and nobody knows if he’s serious. As reported by the New York Times, the DPRK seems to be taking the idea of their unilateral nuclear disarmament off the table:

North Korea threw President Trump’s planned summit meeting with its leader, Kim Jong-un, into doubt on Wednesday, threatening to call off the landmark encounter if the United States insisted on “unilateral nuclear abandonment.”

The statement, made by the North’s disarmament negotiator, came hours after state media warned that the summit meeting might be canceled to protest a joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea that began this week.

The warnings caught Trump administration officials off guard and set off an internal debate over whether Mr. Kim was merely posturing in advance of the meeting in Singapore next month or was erecting a serious new hurdle.

In a statement Wednesday, Kim Kye-kwan, a vice foreign minister, rejected the administration’s demand that it quickly dismantle its nuclear program as Libya did 15 years ago, singling out John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s new national security adviser, for condemnation.

“If the United States is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the D.P.R.K.-U.S. summit,” the statement said, using the abbreviation for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea..

Apparently the North/South talks scheduled this week in Panmunjom have been called off already.

Is Kim Jong-un just bluffing? Who knows, but his claim that unilaterial nuclear disarmament is off the table makes the talks not worth having. There are no nuclear weapons held by either South Korea or the US on the peninsula, though of course the U.S. has ICBMs and submarine nukes that could hit the North. There is no way that the U.S. will give those up, and the North knows it. The only viable route to a long-term peace is the complete abandonment of a nuclear program by the DPRK.

As I’ve said before, doing that is a non-starter for King Jong-un, as he depends on that program to placate his people, whom he’s brainwashed into believing that nukes are the only thing that will keep the U.S. at bay.

Once again I predict—but hope I’m wrong—that these U.S./DPRK talks, even if they take place next month in Singapore, will fail.

h/t: Michael


  1. DrBrydon
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    It will be interesting to see if Trump calls his bluff, or gets suckered into trying to bargain for the meeting.

  2. BobTerrace
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Kim is manipulating Trump, who is not a very bright person. Kim knows that Trump’s ego is everything and will take advantage of him.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Thought for sure Lucy would let Charlie kick the football this time.

    Don’t know what the Donald will do, but if his past performance charts from his business career are any indication, when a deal falls apart, Trump usually makes a big sour-grapes show of announcing he never really wanted to do the deal anyway.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 16, 2018 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Good Peanuts allusion.

  4. Randy Bessinger
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I do think thete will be a deal but it will be a weak one. Something like no new nukes. Weak inspections etc. Trump will say it is the best deal ever….much better than Obama’s with Iran.

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Tough luck for the pee-hookers in Oslo who were set to entertain Trump during the Nobel ceremony next December.

  6. CAS
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    The DPRK never intended to give up its nuclear weapons. Deterrence is the only sure way for Kim Jong-un and his family to remain in power. What happened in Libya and our abrogation of the Iran deal reinforce the conclusion that this is his only sane choice.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Little Rocket Man figures if he wants to make it up to Trump, and get the summit back on track, he can always snatch a few more Western prisoners so Trump gets another photo-op on the airplane when they get released.

    Or maybe my youthful idealism has curdled into a hard-bitten cynicism.

  8. Posted May 16, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Der Drumpfenführer has been had by the Unster. Is anyone surprised?

    Trump’s trumpeting of the summit was a clear invitation for this. Kim knows how to pull his chain!

  9. John Black
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    If I were the U.S. I’d definitely not apologize or cave, but rather express a continued effort to talk. And if Kim Jong Un continues to back away, claim that he was never serious about talks to begin with.

    That’s the usual dance.

  10. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    What i thought was on the table was a nuclear disarmament of the Korean peninsula. I don’t see it clearly stated anywhere that the DPRK wants the U.S. to dismantle its entire nuclear weapons program.

  11. Pikolo
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Smart move on Kim’s part – Trump has already announced success and now Kim is trying to threaten ruining that. I belive we all can only gain from US success on that front and should ignore this to keep the US negotiating position stronger.

  12. David Duncan
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I suspected it was all a con but hoped I was wrong.

    Just ignore him, and not a cent of aid untill he actually starts bulldozing his nuclear infrastructure.

  13. Christopher
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Why should they fail? I mean, just look at the peace tRump has spread across Israel!

  14. BJ
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    It’s just a clever bluff by Kim: screw with Trump by threatening something Trump has already labeled a huge success. Rattling Trump himself may be the goal, but there may be a larger goal of receiving some small concession before the summit even begins.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 16, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      Go clean your room, Pollyanna. 🙂

      Jesus, BJ, aren’t you half-Jewish? Might be a goy myself but I’ve read Kafka’s The Trial, and Malamud’s The Fixer, and deep enough into the corpora of Roth and Bellow and IB Singer to know always expect the worst! 🙂

  15. Posted May 16, 2018 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    It was North Korea’s immediate reaction the hawkish comments of our new National Security Adviser and resident hawk, John Bolton. See:


    Stupid people!

  16. Bruce J. Cochrane
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Today’s New York Times has a very good analysis of the situation. A few key points made in it are

    1. This sort of hot-and-cold behavior on the part of North Korea that we’ve seen before.
    2. Kim has to maintain his status internally, especially with regards to the military, so he cannot be perceived as giving something away for nothing.
    3. The Trump administration has been sending mixed signals – conciliatory from Pompeo and hawkish from Bolton.
    4. The North Koreans absolutely despise Bolton.
    5. At the end of the day, the summit will probably go forward, but don’t hold your breath for dramatic results. In particular, NK disarmament with on-site verification is more than a long shot

    I would add to this (and something that’s been pointed out elsewhere) that Trump’s violation of the Iran nuclear deal can’t be helping the mix – If the US can unilaterally break an international agreement once, what’s to prevent it from doing so again?

    So bottom line – hold the Nobel Prize.

    • Posted May 16, 2018 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Good analysis. It is also not unreasonable, IMHO, for the US to delay the military exercises until after the summit as a gesture toward peace. I guess it would be hugely expensive to have this amount of military equipment idle for a time but I doubt whether Trump would care about that.

      • Posted May 16, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        I don’t understand why SK went along with that either.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted May 16, 2018 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

        “guess it would be hugely expensive to have this amount of military equipment idle for a time”

        I suspect it’s even more expensive to have it running around exercising.

        But it’s not as if there is anything else useful it could be doing. The normal rules of economics don’t apply when the military is involved.

        (Or when Trump is involved, come to that).


    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 16, 2018 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      It’s all fun & games until Bolton growls in Trump’s ear: “People are saying your balls have shrunk, Mr. President. The way to get some respect, and to get Rocket Man back to the table, is with a military strike. Show the little bastard he can’t fuck with the U-S-A! … And your base will love you for it, sir.”

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted May 16, 2018 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        Bolton looks at the international community like he’s a guy walking into a bar looking for somebody to hold his jacket so he can start throwing punches.

        And Trump eats that phony tough-guy attitude up.

  17. Posted May 16, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    As I’ve said before, doing that is a non-starter for King Jong-un, as he depends on that program to placate his people, whom he’s brainwashed into believing that nukes are the only thing that will keep the U.S. at bay

    Deluded as he is, and as wrong as it is that someone like him has access to such weapons, his assessment is not baseless.

  18. Paul S
    Posted May 16, 2018 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Win-win for Kim. Whether or not talks take place, Kim can tell his people the US wants to dismantle their nukes and attack them.

  19. Dale Franzwa
    Posted May 17, 2018 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    Sometimes I wonder who’s really in charge there. Kim depends on that army of his. How do his supporting generals view all this peace talk?

    Where’s Dennis Rodman in all this? After all, it’s basketball playoff time and we all know how Kim loves that game. We need somebody to score a basket here.

    • Posted May 18, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      I still am one of those who think that Trump might have produced a real victory if he appointed Rodman as ambassador to NK.

  20. Bob
    Posted May 17, 2018 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    How Un-Nobel.

  21. Harrison
    Posted May 17, 2018 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Trump demonstrated the art of the deal by baiting a trap for himself and claiming the Korea summit a big success before it even happened. Now Kim says maybe it won’t happen unless he gets more favorable terms, leaving Trump with major egg on his face unless he complies. Oops.

    • Posted May 17, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      It seems the trigger for the NK statement was John Bolton’s public comment about the administration’s approach to the NK summit as being “based on the Libya model”. Libya gave up its nukes completely in exchange for the lifting of sanctions and its leader was murdered shortly thereafter. Talk about loose lips!

  22. Posted May 20, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Denuclearization to Kim does not mean unilateral denuclearization. He means global denuking.

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