WASHINGTON, U.S. - After days of touting success in managing to bring the leader of the rogue nuclear regime to the table for negotiations over the end of his nuclear weapons program, now the U.S. President Donald Trump has hinted at the possibility that the planned summit may fall through.
The historic summit between the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the U.S. President was scheduled to take place in Singapore on June 12.
However, in recent weeks, the diplomatic overture took a turn for the worse after North Korea cancelled planned talks with South Korea and even threatened to cancel the meeting with Trump over Seoul’s military drills with the U.S.
North Korea officially criticized the joint war games by U.S. and South Korean forces, throwing the Singapore summit in doubt.
U.S. meanwhile insisted that the summit would lead to unilateral North Korean surrender of its nuclear weapons programme.
Trump earlier warned Kim Jong Un that if he refuses to make a deal he could face the same fate as the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who was toppled and killed after a NATO-backed insurrection.
North Korea said that it supports the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” but interprets it as a gradual, phased and mutual disarmament process.
Meanwhile, John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser has insisted that the regime hand over all its nuclear weapons and production equipment before receiving any benefits.
However, breaking from Bolton, Trump said that he would not be pinned down on the issue, saying he would prefer an “all-in-one” option in which North Korea gives up its arsenal soon after an agreement is made.
He added that he believed Kim to be serious about denuclearization and added, “I do think he’s serious. I do think he’d like to see that happen.”
The tough line from Trump came after Kim Jong Un visited China for a meeting with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
After what became Kim Jong Un’s second meeting with Jinping in two months, Trump attributed Pyongyang’s hardened negotiating position to his visit to China.
Describing Jinping as a “world-class poker player,” Trump said, “There was a very difficult attitude by the North Korean folks after that meeting ... so I can’t say I’m happy about it.”
On Tuesday, Trump said that there was a “very substantial chance” that the North Korea summit could be delayed.
At a White House meeting with the South Korean president, Moon Jae In, Trump raised doubts over the planned talks but said, “In the end it will work out. I can’t tell you how or why, but it always does.”
He said addressing reporters, “We’re moving along. We’ll see what happens. There are certain conditions we want to happen. I think we’ll get those conditions. And if we don’t, we won’t have the meeting.”
However, did not elaborate on the conditions being set for the meeting.
Trump added, “There is a very substantial chance that it won’t work out, but that’s OK. It doesn’t mean it won’t work out over a period of time, but it may not work out for June 12. But there is still a good chance we’ll have the meeting.”
Drawing from his real estate experience, the U.S. President said that deals that seem certain sometimes fail while those which appear to have little chance of success end in triumph.
He added that if Kim Jong Un agreed to disarm - “We will guarantee his safety. He’ll be safe. He’ll be happy. His country will be rich.”
Meanwhile, speaking alongside Trump, Moon Jae In expressed high confidence that the summit would go ahead and achieve a dramatic breakthrough.
He even attributed the expected “dramatic breakthrough” to Trump’s leadership.
Jae In told Trump, “Thanks to your vision of achieving peace through strength and your strong leadership, we are looking forward to the first U.S.-North Korea summit and we find ourselves standing one step closer to the dream of achieving the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and world peace. All of this was possible because of you, Mr President, and I have no doubt that you will be able to complete and accomplish an historic feat that no one has been able to achieve in the decades past.”
Before the White House meeting, the South Korean national security adviser, Chung Eui-yong, said, “We believe there is a 99.9 percent chance the North Korea-U.S. summit will be held as scheduled.”
He said, “But we’re just preparing for many different possibilities.”
Last week, commenting on North Korea’s more assertive rhetoric, Jae In’s advisor, Eui-yong said, “We’re trying to understand the situation from the North’s perspective. South Korea and the US have been sharing every bit of information and have remained in close coordination with each other. We’ve had various working-level discussions on how to steer North Korea in a direction that we want, and I expect (Moon and Trump) will have great talks this time.”
Yet, North Korean experts were quick to point out then that North Korea never committed to unilateral disarmament and that Trump may simply have misunderstood what would be on the table in Singapore.
According to Mike Fuchs, the deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, now at the Centre for American Progress thinktank, “We’ve now entered the ‘who knew North Korea was so hard?’ phase of Trump’s diplomacy. North Korea is beginning to play hardball, as expected. Trump and Moon must ensure that the two allies are on the same page about how to approach North Korea, and what to expect. If the allies are not coordinated, Kim Jong Un will exploit any daylight in the U.S.-South Korea alliance to the detriment of both Washington and Seoul.”