It was never certain that Kim Jong-un was going to make any meaningful concessions in the ill-fated nuclear negotiations. What was clear to any reasonably-informed observer was that Kim was not going to give up his nuclear weapons. He would have been an absolute fool to do so. Kim may be a lot of loathsome things but he does not appear to be a fool.
People may recall that President George W. Bush labeled North Korea as part of the Axis of Evil in January of 2002, along with Iran and Iraq. The following year, Iraq was invaded and Saddam Hussein was deposed on the pretext that he had a nuclear weapons program. He had no such program, but his demise seems to have spurred the other two members of the evil trio to shift their nuclear programs into high gear. One could not fault them for thinking they might be safe from regime change if they actually possessed a working atomic bomb. Saddam’s fate had to be a stark warning to Kim’s daddy.
If one studies the Kim family you learn that they are tyrannical cut-throats. More importantly, they rarely keep their word. Over the years, American Presidents have negotiated deals with them that the Kims had no intention of keeping. Even with that history, our current President characterized young Kim as a good person who could be trusted, giving him credibility and stature on the world stage.
When Kim suggested a summit to talk about resolving the nuclear issue, our President jumped at the bait without giving it a second thought. Going head-to-head at a summit with the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth was a long-cherished dream of the Kim family. They had finally made the big time and got it without having to give a thing in return.
With the President’s head filled with visions of a Nobel Peace Prize, Kim knew he had him where he wanted him. The President openly displayed how much he wanted a deal, prompting Kim to suggest that denuclearization did not actually mean he would give up his beloved weapons.
Enter John Bolton who knew that the U.S. would have to pry Kim’s nukes out of his cold, dead hands. Wanting either to scotch the deal for his own reasons or to get the President off of the limb he had climbed onto, Bolton publicly suggested the deal with Kim would be based on the “Libya model,” which ended badly for the tyrant. Bolton was fully aware this would launch Kim into orbit, which it did. Kim suggested the summit might be called off. The President’s scuttling of the Iran deal, even though Iran was complying with it, may have added to Kim’s discomfort.
Seeing the Nobel Prize fading into the distance, the President implored Kim to stay at the table, claiming any deal would make him “very, very happy.” Bolton may then have convinced the President that he was way over his skis and had gotten painted into a corner that would require him to take any deal, just to have something to show for his wheeling and dealing.
So, it was decided to send out faithful Mike Pence to put a bullet in the head of the summit. The VP reiterated the Libya model, knowing full well that it would relaunch the Rocket Man and likely kill the deal. It certainly got a reaction but not quite enough to fully sink the deal. The President was able to seize on Kim’s fulmination, however, to strangle the life out of the summit and save his personal bacon.
If we try another adventure of this critical magnitude, could it be suggested that someone do some basic homework, make careful preparations and for heck sakes not negotiate by the seat of our pants. This deal was not at all artful and made our dear country somewhat of a laughingstock around the globe.