Did anybody really think Donald Trump — Donald J. Trump — was going to be the one to talk down North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and restore peace to the region? It was certainly looking possible after South Korea facilitated a meeting between North Korea and the United States. The two nations – whose leaders went from calling each other names to offering each other praise in a matter of months – were set to meet in a few weeks at a U.S.-N.K. Summit scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, but after a break-neck escalation of tension and ferocity, Donald Trump has called off the meeting. Oh no, what about his Nobel Peace Prize?
Sadly, I was forced to cancel the Summit Meeting in Singapore with Kim Jong Un. pic.twitter.com/rLwXxBxFKx
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2018
Since the Olympics in February, North Korea and the U.S. seemed to be on the right track to not only a meeting, but an actual constructive and mutually beneficial relationship. Kim Jong Un even released three Americans who were being detained in North Korea and hosted American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. After that diplomatic (and totally uncharacteristic) move, even the harshest of Trump critics started to believe that maybe the accidental president could pull off this denuclearized Korea thing. That is, until Trump’s administration got into the details.
It’s been a concern since the beginning that North Korea and the United States might have different visions of what “denuclearization” would look like. Those concerns turned into the biggest sticking point in this whole story. The Americans interpret denuclearization as North Korea getting rid of all their nuclear missiles and paraphernalia and destroying their nuclear capabilities. North Korea seems willing to do that . . . as long as everyone else does it too. They want a completely denuclearized Korean Peninsula, meaning South Korea and the United States would have to give up and destroy their own nuclear weapons in the South as well.
You can see why the Americans wouldn’t be totally on board with that. But you can also see why the North Koreans don’t want to throw out all their weapons while a whole rival arsenal sits at the ready next door. See? Sticky.
That misunderstanding was going to be difficult enough to overcome on its own, but then the whole situation got a whole lot worse when National Security Adviser (and impeccable mustache-owner) John Bolton hit the cable news circuit and said that the White House was looking to broker a deal based on the “Libya model.” Baaaaad move.
This is the comment Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton made that has so upset the North Koreans & threatens the summit.
It was so obviously not a good idea to dangling a 'Libyan model' at them, bearing in mind what happened to Gaddafi.
— Paul Danahar (@pdanahar) May 16, 2018
What happened in Libya, you ask? Basically: in a deal praised by the West and condemned by the Arab States, Libya under dictator Muammar Gaddafi agreed to unilaterally denuclearize in 2003 to create a better relationship with the Western World. That’s not the part that bothers Kim. The part that would be cause for concern for the North Korean Supreme Leader is that in 2011, a NATO intervention and civilian rebellion in Libya overthrew Gaddafi who was then dragged through the streets by a mob and killed. Bolton suggesting the “Libya model” must look a little like a death threat to Kim.
So Bolton was not helping. Enter, Vice President Mike Pence, who made things so much worse.
Pence doubled down on Bolton’s statements in a Fox News interview Tuesday adding that the situation “will only end like the Libya model ended if Kim Jong-un doesn’t make a deal.” When asked if that was a threat, the VP answered that it’s more of a “fact.” Yikes.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) May 22, 2018
All this talk of Libya did not sit well with Kim and North Korean media released a statement from the leader shortly after voicing that displeasure, insulting both Bolton and Pence and threatening to withdraw from the meeting. He also called Pence a “political dummy.” Gotta throw in the humour where you can in international conflicts.
It looks like rather than wait for Kim to cancel the meeting, Trump is beating him to it. All week, the president has been saying (and tweeting) that he’s willing to walk away from the summit and a deal if it looks like the Americans aren’t going to get what they want. And now he has.
— Fox News (@FoxNews) May 24, 2018
But now what? That is entirely unclear because it looks like the White House released Trump’s letter to Kim without contacting anyone else, including the South Koreans who have been instrumental to the whole process. When asked what this means, an S.K. spokesperson said they literally had no idea.
South Korean spokesperson: "We are trying to figure out what President Trump’s intention is and the exact meaning of it."
— Ryan Struyk (@ryanstruyk) May 24, 2018
So no one really knows what’s going to happen. On top of all that, the White House prematurely minted some commemorative coins for the occasion and, naturally, people are wondering if they will still be made (priorities, you know). Good news: the mint is still making them and now they’re on sale. So snatch up those bad boys while you still can.
Are you kidding me?! This is just gross. Whose personality cult exactly is this summit legitimizing? This is un-American. Can’t imagine what Fox would say if any other POTUS did this. Wow. Just wow. https://t.co/rn79W4RWO9 via @voxdotcom
— Robert E Kelly (@Robert_E_Kelly) May 22, 2018
Disclaimer, on White House Gift Shop website, for those who ordered $24.95 Trump-Kim summit coins. pic.twitter.com/zlrfFUJINX
— Steve Inskeep (@NPRinskeep) May 24, 2018