The prospects of a peace deal between the United States and North Korea were completely halted when President Trump officially withdrew from the scheduled summit.
For several months, there were signs of optimism, from the open communications between North and South Korea to South Korean President Moon Jae-In and North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-Un’s historic meeting. However, since the June 12 summit was announced, North Korea began drastically changing their tune.
They threatened to pull out of the summit after the United States conducted military drills in South Korea and were outraged at National Security Advisor John Bolton’s remarks comparing potential U.S. foreign policy towards North Korea to what took place with Libya. And it is uncertain if China had any role in North Korea’s sudden reverse.
But it wasn’t until Kim Jong-Un recently continued his nuclear threats that President Trump pulled out of the summit. Obviously, this is a blunder regarding what could have been a foreign policy breakthrough, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any strategy involved, nor does it mean talks with North Korea are over.
Trump’s options were limited. He could have held out hope that Kim would come to his senses and attend the Singapore summit, but the possibility of him cancelling the summit beforehand was very real. And had the dictator pulled the lever before Trump did, it would have been seen as an embarrassment for the president. So if the June 12 summit was inevitably doomed, at least it imploded on Trump’s own terms.
The remarkable letter the president sent to Kim Jong-Un was classic Trump trolling. It struck a perfect balance between praise for the dictator for releasing the three American hostages while gleefully reminding him our nuclear arsenal can level his entire nation. Most importantly, Trump left the door open for Kim Jong-Un to wise up. If the North Korean dictator truly wants to improve the economic conditions of his country, he’ll drop his petty, childish antics. The letter brilliantly captured Trump’s position and voice.
It’s no surprise that Trump’s political adversaries on Capitol Hill and in the media are celebrating this foreign policy “failure.” But let’s remember a couple of things. First, Trump literally had nothing to lose by pulling out of the summit. For the United States, it’ll simply be the status quo. For North Korea, they’re still facing heavy sanctions and isolation from the rest of the world. So if that’s what they want, that’s what they’ll get.
Secondly, Trump still got three American prisoners out of North Korea without giving up anything, so these past several weeks of peace talks weren’t a waste of time at all. Still, it’s a shame that the Trump haters are cheerleading this setback instead of simply being on Team USA.
Sure, those commemorative coins are now pretty much worthless and Trump may not be handed the Nobel Peace Prize this year, but he has roughly seven more years to strike a peace deal (depending of course if he wins his reelection). This administration figured that, unlike previous administrations that North Korea hoodwinked, Trump has no intention of being played. As he wrote in “The Art of The Deal,” he can’t be afraid to walk away from the table.
The biggest takeaway from all of this is that the most unpredictable dictator was outplayed by the most unpredictable president. Let’s hope there will eventually be peace in the Korean Peninsula and that the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un actually takes place.