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Kim was clearly signaling he is not done yet with the classic North Korean strategy of provocations and demands.
Kim was clearly signaling he is not done yet with the classic North Korean strategy of provocations and demands.

Trump’s Korea Hopes Thrown Into Turmoil

North Korea warned that if the White House required the dismantling of its nuclear arsenal up front, there was little point in talking
It is possible Kim wanted to send a shot across America’s bow, and feels he has not got much in return for meeting the South Korean leader, agreeing to see Trump, sending US prisoners home and offering to dismantle a nuclear test site

Trump’s Korea Hopes Thrown Into Turmoil

An unexpected series of threats from Pyongyang on Wednesday threatened to nix next month's planned summit in Singapore between US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un and sink White House hopes of a spectacular foreign policy success.
The warning delivered a jolt of reality, underscoring that despite weeks of positive steps by North Korea and Trump's gusher of praise for Kim, the process of negotiating with the inscrutable state remains as treacherous as ever, CNN reported.
First, North Korea shocked Washington by lashing out at US-South Korea military drills, saying they could lead to the summit being scrapped. Then in a more ominous development, it warned that if the White House required the dismantling of its nuclear arsenal up front, there was little point in talking.
"If the Trump administration is genuinely committed to improving NK-US relations and come out to the NK-US summit, they will receive a deserving response," Kim Kye-gwan, First Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was quoted as saying by the official KCNA news agency.
"But if they try to push us into the corner and force only unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in that kind of talks and will have to reconsider whether we will accept the upcoming NK-US summit."
The comments appeared to be a direct repudiation of statements by top Trump administration officials that North Korea must accept the total and irrevocable elimination of its nuclear arsenal before it could accept tangible benefits from the US as part of any peace drive.

***Classic Strategy
Kim was clearly signaling he is not done yet with the classic North Korean strategy of provocations and demands. And the President and supporters might want to put that talk about the Nobel Peace Prize on ice, at least for now.
On the other hand, as strong as they were, Kim's protests came on paper, and not in the form of missile launches or a nuclear test—a potential sign of progress in that he registered anger but did not take a step that would immediately sink the summit.
The North's sharp messages came just a week after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned home from a friendly meeting with Kim with three US prisoners, prompting Trump to stage a middle-of-the-night welcoming ceremony.
It left the White House scrambling to decipher Pyongyang's motives and analysts handicapping the prospects for the summit.
"I have to say, this is a little bit out of the blue," said Harry Kazianis, a Korea expert at the Center for the National Interest.
"The North Korean pattern is to do provocations whether it is tests of missiles or nukes, ask for negotiations then string us along for months and years," he said. "But this time, they are not even getting to that point, they are already causing problems before we have the negotiation."

***Motives
North Korea's closed political system and the difficulty of getting reliable intelligence from inside Kim's inner circle mean that explaining Tuesday's bombshell is guesswork.
It is possible Kim wanted to send a shot across America's bow, and feels he has not got much in return for meeting South Korean leader Moon Jae-in, agreeing to see Trump, sending US prisoners home and offering to dismantle a nuclear test site.
He may also be balking at emerging details of America's goal for the summit—an agreement for full and irreversible denuclearization by North Korea in return for security guarantees and the promise of future investment by US firms in the impoverished nation.
Trump's national security adviser John Bolton—a skeptic who would have been unsurprised by Kim's Tuesday broadside—told CNN's Jake Tapper over the weekend, "I wouldn't look for economic aid from us," and said the Singapore summit would test whether Kim had made a strategic decision to get rid of his nuclear arsenal.
The KCNA dispatch took direct aim at Bolton and rejected his view that North Korea should follow Libya's model and unilaterally give up all its nuclear weapons.
The statement may also indicate that the ambition and speed of the US approach—which implies invasive inspections of the North's nuclear, missile and chemical and biological weapons programs and confiscation of its arsenals—has spooked Kim.
Pompeo has said Washington would not follow its traditional and failed strategy of offering the North concessions like the lifting of sanctions and financial aid in return for proportional steps by Pyongyang to decommission its weapons.
"We're hoping this will be bigger, different, faster," Pompeo told CBS "Face the Nation."
Last week, Chinese state media reported that Kim wanted "phased and synchronous measures" to defuse the nuclear showdown, a possible sign of dissent with the US approach.

***Head to Head
Given that the summit will likely hinge on a mano-a-mano test of wills, Kim may also have been trying to demonstrate his own personal leverage over Trump.
After all, Kim is not the first to threaten not to show up— Trump has done so repeatedly.
"If I think that it is a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we are not going to go," Trump said on April 18.
Some experts speculated whether the North Korean statement, which also suspended planned high-level talks with South Korea due to begin Wednesday, could be a sign of internal political pressure on Kim. It is not out of the question that he was signaling to military officers worried that he may be about to overturn decades of political dogma by dealing with the US.
Kim may also be testing just how much Trump wants the summit—given his predictions of success—and whether that will make him more likely to offer Pyongyang a good deal.
Or he may be laying groundwork for a face-saving exit if Trump comes in too hard.

 

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