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Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim

Photo by Matt Brown | CC BY 2.0

Donald Trump writes Kim Jong Un that “based on the tremendous anger and open hostility expressed in your recent statement” he must cancel the planned Singapore summit.

The “recent statement” appears to be one from Choe Son Hui, North Korea’s vice minister of foreign affairs and nuclear negotiator (full text below). It was issued after Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News that North Korea could end up like Libya if it fails to make a nuclear deal with Washington.

This was a very stupid, provocative thing to say. Muammar Gaddafy gave up his small nuke program in 2003 but was overthrown by a NATO campaign in 2011 that destroyed his country and resulted in his brutal murder. The historical lesson is not: give up your nuclear program or weapons or get sodomized by a bayonet as you die (Gadaffy’s fate, which as you know Hillary Clinton found hilarious), but rather, give up your weapons and enjoy some respite from sanctions and normalized relations, etc., but eight years later face fire and fury, all the more vulnerable due to your earlier foolish capitulation.

Pence had declared: “There was some talk about the Libyan model last week, and you know, as the President made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal.” Asked if this could be interpreted as a threat, he replied, “Well, I think it’s more of a fact.” (This is after the odious National Security Advisor John Bolton had also compared U.S. intentions to those in Libya that resulted in the overthrow and murder of Gaddafi.)

Choe replied: “Vice President Pence has made unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya, military option for North Korea never came off the table, the US needs complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization, and so on. As a person involved in the US affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice president.”

Trump who calls people all kinds of insulting names all the time finds this unacceptable? Reason to cancel the meeting?

“In view of the remarks of the US high-ranking politicians who have not yet woken up to this stark reality and compare the DPRK to Libya that met a tragic fate, I come to think that they know too little about us. To borrow their words, we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now. Before making such reckless threatening remarks without knowing exactly who he is facing, Pence should have seriously considered the terrible consequences of his words… Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States. In case the US offends against our goodwill and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the DPRK-US summit.”

Trump tells Kim, “If you change your mind about this important summit” be in touch. As though Kim was the one who had cancelled and changed his mind. There were some reports (maybe disinformation) about Kim’s concern that a coup might occur while he was out of the country, but other affirming the DPRK’s commitment to the Singapore date. It’s possible there’s been some coordination on postponement and Trump uses the easy excuse of being offended by the Koreans’ typically vituperative language.

Whether this is a temporary setback or the collapse of diplomatic efforts, Trump looks bad in this situation. He seems petulant and hypocritical. Yes the North Korean statement by a high-ranking woman in the Foreign Ministry is defiant, but many Koreans are like Trump in that when attacked rhetorically, they counterattack rhetorically. In this case the insulting language was intended to echo Trump’s language vis-a-vis the DPRK.

To borrow their words, we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now.” But this as she notes merely echoes Trump’s rhetoric at the United Nations when he warned that the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea if it didn’t denuclearize.

I sense this decision will meet with general disappointment throughout the world, and Trump not Kim will be blamed. People associate Trump himself with anger and hostility and will wonder why he’s made a big deal out of  a Foreign Ministry statement (quite appropriately!) protesting the repeated references by top U.S. officials to the Libyan model. It will join the Paris Accord pullout, Iran deal pullout, and move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, as examples of Trump’s irrationality and indications that the U.S. has lost its way in the world.

* * * * *

Full text of Choi Son Hui’s statement:

At an interview at Fox News on May 21, US Vice-President Pence made unbridled and impudent remarks that North Korea might end like Libya, military option for North Korea never came off the table, the US needs complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation, and so on.

As a person involved in the US affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice-president.

If he is vice-president of “single superpower” as is in name, it will be proper for him to know even a little bit about the current state of global affairs and to sense to a certain degree the trends in dialogue and the climate of détente.

We could surmise more than enough what a political dummy he is as he is trying to compare the DPRK, a nuclear weapon state, to Libya that had simply installed a few items of equipment and fiddled around with them.

Soon after the White House National Security Adviser Bolton made the reckless remarks, Vice-President Pence has again spat out nonsense that the DPRK would follow in Libya’s footstep.

It is to be underlined, however, that in order not to follow in Libya’s footstep, we paid a heavy price to build up our powerful and reliable strength that can defend ourselves and safeguard peace and security in the Korean peninsula and the region.

In view of the remarks of the US high-ranking politicians who have not yet woken up to this stark reality and compare the DPRK to Libya that met a tragic fate, I come to think that they know too little about us.

To borrow their words, we can also make the US taste an appalling tragedy it has neither experienced nor even imagined up to now.

Before making such reckless threatening remarks without knowing exactly who he is facing, Pence should have seriously considered the terrible consequences of his words.

It is the US who has asked for dialogue, but now it is misleading the public opinion as if we have invited them to sit with us.

I only wonder what is the ulterior motive behind its move and what is it the US has calculated to gain from that.

We will neither beg the US for dialogue nor take the trouble to persuade them if they do not want to sit together with us.

Whether the US will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.

In case the US offends against our goodwill and clings to unlawful and outrageous acts, I will put forward a suggestion to our supreme leadership for reconsidering the DPRK-US summit.

More articles by:

Gary Leupp is Professor of History at Tufts University, and holds a secondary appointment in the Department of Religion. He is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: gleupp@tufts.edu

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