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NK and the Game of Risk: Is it Now Pompeo’s Move?

NK demands someone more careful and mature for talks of denuclearization.

Tensions are once again high between the U.S. and North Korea as ongoing talks to denuclearize have slid from promising peace one short year ago to name calling against U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The recent dust-up involved North Korea’s Foreign Ministry official, Kwon Jong Gun, stating he would only speak with a “person who is more careful and mature.”

Kim Jong Un and Mike Pompeo

Jong Gun released his latest salvo to state run Korean Central News Agency lambasting Pompeo for “letting loose reckless remarks and sophism of all kinds against us every day.” He later admitted they had recently tested a new tactical weapon – a component of armament that Kim Jong Un says “will be a great historic event in strengthening the combat capability of the People’s Army.”

Ominous much?

So much for the good vibrations of the first-ever summit between Washington and Pyongyang in Singapore and the continued talks in Hanoi. The Hanoi diplomatic junket ended rather abruptly without success after Trump proposed a “big deal,” in which sanctions would be lifted if North Korea handed over all its nuclear weapons to the United States – flat out rejecting the stair step approach presented by Kim.

What Prompted This Latest Dust-Up?

It appears negotiations are stalling over miscommunications and hurt feelings from the unsuccessful Hanoi meeting. Kim Jong Un recently stated that the U.S. has until the end of the year to offer “mutually acceptable terms” for an ongoing agreement to finalize the denuclearization deal.

Pompeo claims the two powers agreed to complete the entire process – including inspections – by the end of 2019:

“I saw Chairman Kim’s statement. President Trump is determined to move forward diplomatically, right. This is the outcome we’re looking for: Chairman Kim made a promise in June of last year in Singapore. He made a commitment to denuclearize. He’s made that same commitment to me now a handful of times in person … He said he wanted it done by the end of the year. I’d love to see that done sooner.”

And then Pompeo took it a step too far – at least where sensitivity in diplomacy is concerned. Last week, during a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing, he was asked a loaded question:  Did he believe Kim to be a “tyrant?” Missing the memo to not throw kerosene on a burning ember, he replied, “Sure, I’m sure I’ve said that.”

Mike Pompeo

The resulting flames were spectacular, causing an immediate rebuking of Pompeo by Kwon Jong Gun, who sniped back, saying the Secretary “spouted reckless remarks, hurting the dignity of our supreme leadership … to unveil his mean character.”

Unable to reign in his anger, he demanded Pompeo be ousted from ongoing negotiations with this picture painting retort: “The table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled.” He added that the recent dismal results of the Hanoi summit “gives us a lesson that whenever Pompeo pokes his nose in, the talks go wrong without any results.”

Yes, it appears this latest set back is of a very personal nature.

What to Expect

It appears the bromance that bloomed with such sweetness between Trump and Kim Jong Un is heading toward disaster. Critics of North Korea claim there is ongoing activity in the nation’s main nuclear site, suggesting the country could be reprocessing radioactive material into bomb fuel – breaking a major treaty with the U.S. and the rest of world.

Kim Jong Un has claimed in the past that he has a nuclear bomb small enough to fit on a long-range missile as well as ballistic missiles that might have enough range to reach the shores of the United States.  And that fact alone plays into National Security Advisor John Bolton’s beliefs that no such disarmament deal can be reached. Bolton is sticking to his guns that no third summit is likely unless North Korea gives up its nukes.

Speaking with Bloomberg News, Bolton spoke without much of an ambassadorial filter: “The president is fully prepared to have a third summit if he can get a real deal. I wouldn’t say we could say that at this point.”

For now, the armistice between North Korea and the United States appears to be on the rocks. But with the gigantic personalities of both world leaders in the mix, there may be a revival of the biggest deal struck for the Korean peninsula since Harry Truman was president.

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