Sunday, July 8, 2018

Second Verse, Same As The First

Donald Trump's "crowning diplomatic achievement" of a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has now been revealed to be nothing more than an embarrassing sham as Pyongyang unceremoniously dumped Secretary of State Mike Pompeo off without actually meeting Kim.

North Korea accused the Trump administration on Saturday of pushing a “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization” and called it “deeply regrettable,” hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his two days of talks in the North Korean capital were “productive.”

Despite the criticism, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, still wanted to build on the “friendly relationship and trust” forged with President Trump during their summit meeting in Singapore on June 12. The ministry said Mr. Kim had written a personal letter to Mr. Trump, reiterating that trust.

The two sides have a history of veering between harsh talk and conciliation. Mr. Trump briefly called off the Singapore summit meeting over what he called North Korea’s “open hostility,” only to declare it back on after receiving what he called a “very nice letter” from Mr. Kim.

On Saturday, Mr. Pompeo and his entourage offered no immediate evidence that they had come away with anything tangible to show that North Korea was willing to surrender its nuclear and missile weapons programs. He did not meet with Mr. Kim but held talks with Kim Yong-chol, a senior official who has been country’s point person in talks with the United States, South Korea and China.

“These are complicated issues, but we made progress on almost all of the central issues,” Mr. Pompeo said before boarding a plane for Tokyo. He called the meetings “productive.”

But the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s assessment was decidedly less upbeat.

“The attitude and demands from the U.S. side during the high-level talks were nothing short of deeply regrettable,” the ministry said, accusing American “working-level” officials of trying to destroy the agreement struck in Singapore.

Mr. Pompeo came to Pyongyang to try to get the North Koreans to match their vague commitment to denuclearization — signed by Kim Jong-un in the June meeting with President Trump — with some kind of action. Among the first priorities were a declaration of weapons sites, a timeline of deconstruction efforts and, perhaps, a written statement that the North’s definition of denuclearization matched Mr. Pompeo’s.

Asked if he had gotten any of those, Mr. Pompeo declined to divulge details.

Spoilers: Pompeo got exactly nothing, including no chance of a meeting with Kim himself.  After all, the North Koreans have already won this round, recognized by the most powerful country on Earth as a legitimate nuclear power.  Any further diplomacy on Pyongyang's stance will be bilateral deals, with Kim holding his brand-new nuclear cards.

Besides, Pompeo knows full well he has lost.

Privately, Mr. Pompeo has said that he doubts the North Korean leader will ever give up his nuclear weapons. And those doubts have been reinforced in recent days by intelligence showing that North Korea, far from dismantling its weapons facilities, has been expanding them and taking steps to conceal the efforts from the United States.

Mr. Trump has said his summit meeting with Mr. Kim was a success, and he has declared the North “no longer a nuclear threat.” Squaring Mr. Trump’s evaluation with what increasingly seems like a more troubling reality has become one of Mr. Pompeo’s greatest challenges as the United States’ chief diplomat.

It was Mr. Pompeo’s third trip to Pyongyang, but the first time he had spent the night. Even so, it appeared to have been his least productive visit.

There had been hopes that Mr. Pompeo would get the North to agree to release the remains of American war dead. But Mr. Pompeo said that another meeting had been set up for July 12 for further talks on repatriating the remains, a dialogue that will be led by the Defense Department.

No such talks will happen.  North Korea now knows it can bring the world to the table by rattling its nuclear saber and that it can get away with making increasingly bellicose demands.  I'm not sure how the world will deal with a nuclear North Korean going forward, but I do know that the Trump regime is the least prepared and most ill-equipped American administration possible in being able to deal with it.

Trump's failures with Pyongyang this year will go down as one of the greatest international blunders in history.  He's likely to only eclipse that dubious honor as his term grinds on.

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