Donald Trump fell on a bone. The US president already bragged about his future Nobel Peace Prize, even before his summit meeting with Kim Jong-un , provided for Singapore , June 12th. Sure Twitter he announced to the world a historic “deal” on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. He already saw himself “under the dome”, humiliating again Barack Obama , and its predecessors, all of whom have stumbled on Pyongyang’s “black box”, unable to halt its foregoing atomic flight, for decades. In just a few hours, the North Korean supreme leader has brought the White House back to this harsh reality: the Kim clan is not releasing the bomb for a simple handshake, even with the most powerful man in the world. And negotiations will be tough, very tough.
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Donald Trump Thursday expressed surprise at the sudden change in tone of the North Korean regime. Disconcerted by Pyongyang’s sudden attacks on Washington and Seoul since Tuesday, the president has thrown stone at Chinese President Xi Jinping, who met Kim again last week in Dalian. “There is a big difference in tone since this second meeting. President Xi could influence Kim, “said, disconcerted, Trump, escalating trade tensions with China. Two days earlier, Pyongyang expressed his “outrage”, denouncing “the absurdity” of the Libyan denuclearization model pushed by hawk John Bolton. The National Security Advisor demanded the dismantling of North Korean warheads as a prerequisite for lifting the sanctions, during an interview with ABC last Sunday. A red rag for the regime of the DPRK traumatized by the violent fall of Colonel Gaddafi.
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Trump tried to reassure his young opponent by promising him “guarantees”, before setting foot in the Libyan dish. The Commander in chief waved the veiled threat of a “total decimation” of the hermit kingdom, as Tripoli endured, if no agreement is found. Enough to feed the paranoia of the regime that considered “sinister” the parallel in a vitriolic statement Wednesday.
Since then, Pyongyang has redoubled its attacks, targeting South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in, accused of being “ignorant and incompetent”! A cold shower, a few days later the historic handshake between Kim and Moon , on the DMZ on April 27, where the two leaders promised their hand on the heart never to “make war again”. Seoul is summoned to choose between its alliance with Washington and the rapprochement with Pyongyang. A dilemma for the South Korean president, who will be at the White House on May 22.
Blowing hot and cold is part of North Korea’s classic trading tactics to destabilize the opponent. “They want to test Trump. They met Mike Pompeo, but they know that the main obstacle remains Bolton, “Judge Victor Cha, former Bush era negotiator. With the hope of forcing Donald Trump, baited by the prospect of a high-visibility agreement, to lower his denuclearization requirements.
These strong exchanges indicate that the negotiations are in the thick of the matter, and that the road to Singapore will be longer and more complicated than envisaged by the American. They do not mean that the summit is stillborn, but it could be postponed if the talks fester, Judge Scott Snyder of the Council for Foreign Relations. Already, in 2012, the Obama administration had quietly snatched a diplomatic breakthrough during talks in Switzerland. But the young Kim had torpedoed the “deal” at the last minute, launching a rocket, defying UN Security Council resolutions. The next few weeks will tell if the Marshal is ready this time to really sit down at the negotiating table. Colonel Gaddafi’s ghost still haunts Pyongyang, and the Trump administration’s constant references to Libya are still fueling the mistrust of a regime that legitimizes resistance to the US “enemy.”