By Robert A. Vella
Today, President Trump abruptly cancelled the summit meeting between the U.S. and North Korea that had been scheduled for June 12th in Singapore. Trump cited “tremendous anger and open hostility” from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in recent public statements as the reason for the cancellation. But, make no mistake, this never was an honest diplomatic effort from the outset and it never had a chance of succeeding.
Trump’s aim for the summit, which he never tried to conceal, was the denuclearization of North Korea on his terms. In other words, Trump believed he could intimidate Kim Jong Un into capitulation without surrendering any major concessions. Therefore, real diplomacy was never his intent.
What Kim’s underlying motives were are difficult to access. I’m sure his ultimate goal is the reunification of Korea. It’s also likely that he wants the economic sanctions levied against his nation removed or at least scaled-back. However, I do not believe that a recent realization of – and dissatisfaction with – Trump’s offer suddenly triggered the North Korean leader’s adversarial rhetoric. I believe that Kim saw Trump’s reneging on the Iran nuclear agreement, his aggressive move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and warmongering statements by officials in his administration (e.g. John Bolton), as proof that Trump could not be trusted in any diplomatic negotiations. Additionally, it is possible that Kim felt this way all along and waited this long to play hardball in order to embarrass Trump with an epic foreign policy failure.
Regardless, Trump raised the stakes even higher later on in public remarks which included a thinly-veiled threat to use American military might against North Korea “if necessary.” Administration officials, such as Vice President Mike Pence, have referred to the example of Libya as a possible fate for North Korea if it doesn’t obey U.S. wishes. Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was brutally murdered in 2011 after an American-backed insurrection had wrested power away from him during the Arab Spring uprisings.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has been instrumental in negotiating this diplomatic effort, has called an emergency meeting of his security advisors and cabinet members to assess the situation following the summit’s cancellation.