Maybe it was inevitable. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made his third trip to Pyongyang determined to put meat on the bones of a skeletal summit declaration co-signed by Trump and Kim last month—one that offered the tantalizing possibility of a transformed relationship and a denuclearized North Korea, with no particular plan to get there.
Coming so soon after the summit, Pompeo’s trip even looked something like momentum. The Trump administration certainly needs it to stand a chance of realizing Pompeo’s stated ambition to achieve “major disarmament” of North Korea within two and a half years. There were hopeful signs—the Hermit Kingdom allowed in members of the foreign press corps, and it looked likely to start returning the remains of American service members lost or killed during the Korean War.
But there were troubling signs as well. Recent reports—citing both intelligence sources and independent analysts—indicated that North Korea was actually expanding its nuclear facilities. Pompeo would not meet with Kim Jong Un as he has in the past but with his vice chairman and former spy chief Kim Yong Chol. And Trump himself was setting too high a bar, having declared post-summit that there was no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea (the country maintains all the capabilities it had before the summit), and claiming that the remains of 200 of U.S. soldiers had already been returned (they have not).
And it turned out even Pompeo’s modest assessment of the trip’s achievements—which yielded neither public steps toward denuclearization nor remains transfers, but what Pompeo called “productive conversations” on “complicated issues”—may have been too much. No sooner had he left the country than the North was characterizing those same talks as “regrettable” in light of America’s “gangster-like” demand for the North’s unilateral denuclearization.
It was a departure from the recent tone of near-amity between the North and the U.S., and certainly matched neither Pompeo’s characterization of his own talks nor Trump’s tweeted optimism about ongoing “good conversations” with the North Koreans ahead of Pompeo’s trip. Yet it was also a return to form for the North Koreans, who briefly got the summit cancelled through what Trump called “tremendous anger and open hostility,” including personal attacks on Trump officials like National-Security Adviser John Bolton. And the disconnect was also characteristic of the Trump administration’s negotiations with North Korea as a whole—to wit, since the summit and …read more
Source:: The Atlantic – Best of