If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That’s why we were excited, but cautiously reserved, when President Trump and Kim Jong Un announced they would be meeting on June 12 in Singapore to discuss some degree of normalization between the U.S. and North Korea. Because while there can be no doubt that Kim has been on his very best behavior for the last couple of months, we knew there was a not-insignificant chance that he would soon prove himself to be the irrational madman that he’s been since taking charge of the country. This is a leader (and a family) that has shown himself to be ruthless, power-crazed, and dangerous. To expect that he would turn over a new leaf was perhaps an optimism not well founded.
This week, in a statement released by North Korean state media, the regime’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kim Kye Gwan, said that North Korea would pull out of talks if the expectation was that they were to give up their nuclear weapons.
Like, what did you guys think this summit was about? Climate change?
Earlier in the week, North Korea canceled planned talks with South Korea due to the ongoing military drills being staged by Washington and Seoul. Kim Jong Un has been harshly critical of these drills in the past, certain that they are preparation for an invasion of the north.
At a briefing Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the U.S. had received no notification that Pyongyang was pulling out of the scheduled summit.
“I will say that Kim Jong Un had said previously that he understands the need and the utility of the United States and the Republic of Korea continuing in its joint exercises. They’re exercises that are legal, and they’re planned well, well in advance,” Nauert said. “We have not heard anything from that government or the government of South Korea to indicate that we would not continue conducting these exercises or that we would not continue planning for our meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un next month.”
In his statement, Kim Kye Gwan pointed to remarks made by security advisor John Bolton, who said that the U.S. should come to North Korea using the “Libyan model” of denuclearization – get rid of the program now and get relief from sanctions later. Unfortunately, the grisly end of Moammar Qaddafi’s rule in Libya gives the Kim regime pause when it comes to giving up nuclear security.
“We will appropriately respond to the Trump administration if it approaches the North Korea-U.S. summit meeting with a truthful intent to improve relations,” the foreign minister said. However, he said that if the meeting “will be all about driving us into a corner,” then the regime was no longer interested in coming to the table.
It’s impossible to know how much of this is just boastful rhetoric because North Korea does not operate like any other normal country. That makes this summit unpredictable and Trump’s chances of success here unknowable.
Still, he’s trying, and all we can hope for now is that someone in Pyongyang has enough sense to see that denuclearization is the only viable option they have.