Why Donald Trump Canceled The Peace Summit With Kim Jong-un

How Trump’s misconceptions led to diminished peace talks with North Korea

People watch a TV screen showing file footage of U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

People watch a TV screen showing file footage of U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, May 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

By Zak Ali and Ahmed Baba

Today, in a letter addressed to Kim Jong-un, President Trump pulled out of the June 12th summit that was set to be held in Singapore. In his letter, Trump cited that his decision to withdraw was the result of the “tremendous anger and open hostility” exhibited in yesterday’s statement from vice-foreign minister and nuclear negotiator, Choe Son Hui.

Choe’s statement warned, “we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now” and referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy.”

The comments referencing Mike Pence came after he tripled down on the, proven to be relations-damaging, “Libya model” comparisons. In a Monday interview with Fox News, Pence backed up the President’s misguided understanding of the “Libya model” saying, “as the president made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model if Kim Jong-un doesn’t make a deal.”

Despite North Korea reportedly destroying one of their nuclear test sites just this morning, Choe’s remarks seem to have sealed the fate of the June 12th summit.

However, there are several components that may have factored into President Trump’s decision.

From the start, President Trump expressed unrealistic expectations about what this summit would entail. One of Trump’s initial demands was complete denuclearization on the part of North Korea, and his rhetoric leading up to the summit indicated that he expected this meeting to lock a deal in place, rather than what it really was: the first step in a long negotiation process. Once it appeared to dawn on him that this was the case, Trump’s rhetoric went from talk of receiving a Nobel Peace Prize to casting doubt on the possible success of the summit. Couple this with reports indicating Trump wasn’t preparing for the summit and you have a President who was in over his head.

President Trump’s miscalculation about the reason why Kim Jong-un was ready to come to the table also seemed to play a role in this. Trump has long credited his “maximum pressure” campaign for North Korea’s recent diplomatic pivot. When it comes to the international sanctions, that is true, but Trump also believes that his “fire and fury” rhetoric was a primary reason Kim Jong-un was willing to talk. Therefore, Trump and his administration continued this tactic through their references to the “Libya model,” which clearly did more damage than good. Just last week, amid the escalation in rhetoric, North Korean officials didn’t show up to a scheduled summit-prep meeting in Singapore.

When Choe reacted to the Trump administration’s threats, Trump reacted in his typical ego-driven manner, canceling the summit, getting himself out of a meeting he wasn’t prepared for. Now, the President is claiming the United States is prepared for military action. A setback in what is a rare opportunity for peace.

North Korea still has Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. South Korea is still on edge. And the United States still has an impulsive President.

Important to note that 3 American hostages were released from North Korea, and the diplomatic channel that was opened as a result of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip is still open. However, with John Bolton still in the role of National Security Adviser, we can expect a return to more hardline rhetoric and political theatre.

News // Donald Trump / North Korea / Nuclear Weapons