The once rosy glow of agreement between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un has settled into an uneasy armistice. As time unfolds, this once promising marriage faces pressures and opinions from Trump insiders as well as interference from pessimistic, meddling outsiders. The discord is an unwelcome distraction to the two world leaders trying to seal the peace deal once and for all.
Some might say that a sabotage against the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is in the works, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abruptly canceled his trip to Pyongyang after the president received a mysterious missive that insiders say was a direct threat against the United States.
President Trump tweeted his feelings: “I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, at this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula…”
Pompeo’s actions spooked North Korea and prompted newspaper Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea, to accuse the U.S. of scheming to “unleash war.”
The honeymoon is over, it seems. And the relationship must be swiftly renegotiated if it is to survive.
But just whom might be the saboteur?
Threats and Innuendos
Russia has horned in on Trump’s dealings with North Korea by aiding and abetting a breach of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions. Last month, pointing out Putin’s flagrant disregard of the injunctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo diplomatically stated, “We’ve seen reports that Russia is allowing for joint ventures with North Korean firms and granting new work permits to North Korean guest workers.”
But Pompeo’s diplomacy is also being tested by Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has said on several occasions that a military option might be the best course of action in denuclearizing the region – a more swift and decisive action to end the constant hither and thither.
On Face the Nation, Bolton alluded to using “the Libya model” on Kim Jong Un:
“In the case of Libya, for example, and it’s a different situation in some respects … One thing that Libya did that led us to overcome our skepticism was that they allowed American and British observers into all their nuclear-related sites.”
The Libya model is a dark reference to Muammar Gaddafi, who allowed American and British inspections of his denuclearizing process and then gave up his arsenal after repeated negotiations and promises from the U.S.
A scant few years later in 2011, an uprising in Libya with backing from the United States and several NATO countries, combined with cruise missile strikes that relentlessly pounded the Libyan government, ended Gaddafi’s reign. Within weeks, Gaddafi was on video being dragged into the streets by rebels, and the world was witness to his violent and brutal murder.
Kim Jong Un must surely have seen Bolton’s remarks as a prophecy of things to come.
Bolton’s rhetoric is not helping bring this bromance back to life. And the question must be posed are Pompeo and Bolton attempting to undermine continued negotiations of denuclearization?
It wouldn’t be the first time that peace talks with Korea have begun with great promise only to evaporate with threats and innuendo by both powers.
The tenuous relationship between the United States and North Korea is a decades-long battle over promises made but not kept.
Since President Harry Truman ordered American forces into the Korean conflict in 1950, diplomatic relations have proved to be fleeting with little to no progress over the years.
In 1994, Pyongyang negotiated with the Clinton administration, agreeing to replace its nuclear power plant program with a light water nuclear reactor. The U.S. would foot the bill for two light water reactors and supply North Korea 500,000 tons of heavy fuel annually.
Yeah, that deal collapsed when along came President George W. Bush, who referred to North Korea as part of an “axis of evil” in his first State of the Union address. Washington reneged, and North Korea went back to stockpiling plutonium.
China, Russia, Japan, the United States, and North and South Korea tried again in 2003 and 2005 to reach a compromise — and with some success, as Pyongyang pledged to abandon any and all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.
That promise ended in 2009, as North Korea disavowed a report that found they had not abandoned their weapons programs.
It appears that progress made earlier in the year might be headed for the history pages as a faithful attempt with no measurable success – just as all past administrations’ efforts at peace with the peninsula have been relegated since Truman.
In a recent press release to the United Nations, North Korea explained their disappointment in being misled once again by the United States. They accuse Trump’s administration of “inventing a pretext for increased sanctions,” and “resorting to highly despicable actions in hindering international organizations’ cooperation” in sending dignitaries and sports teams to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea.
And they are big on showy events that celebrate their self-proclaimed world dominance.
Make Negotiating Great Again
In almost seven decades, there has been no progress with diplomatic negotiations with North Korea. Some say the United States is the first to renege on promises, while others assume North Korea is not an actor of good faith, and which has forced each administration to retract their commitments time and time again.
What is vital to the U.S., North Korea, and the world, is continual dialogue. Perhaps Trump should accept the few gestures of good faith that Kim has delivered upon – discontinuing nuclear tests, dismantling test grounds, and repatriating the remains of prisoners of war and those missing in action – and throw the nation a bone.
Or, let John Bolton push Kim into an act of aggression to appeal to his mission of sustained bombing to end the standoff once and for all.