President Trump again derailed the negotiations with North Korea. It will be difficult to get them back on track. The attitude he showed makes it unlikely that any deal will be made.
Tuesday night North Korea threatened to cancel the summit with U.S. President Trump. Remarks by U.S. National Security Advisor Bolton that the "Libya model" would be applied to North Korea were taken as insult.
Libya had bought some equipment that could be used to eventually start Uranium enrichment. But it never had a coordinated program to develop nuclear weapons nor did it have the industrial and academic base to pursue such a project. To get out of sanctions Libya gave up the little material it had. All was shipped to the U.S. before the sanctions were lifted. Bolton probably referred to only that part of the "Libya model".
But there is also the other part. A few years after Libya had given up its minuscule nuclear stuff France, the United Kingdom and the U.S. (FUKUS) waged a regime change war against it. With U.S. help Muhammad Ghaddafi was murdered by radical Islamists and Hillary Clinton even joked (vid) about it. Libya has since devolved into total chaos and a multi-sided tribal war with continued foreign meddling.
North Korea naturally rejects both parts of the Libya model. It sees itself -quite rightly- as a full fledged nuclear state. It demands negotiations on an equal base.
On Wednesday, after the North Korean threat to cancel the summit, the White House spokesperson pulled back on Bolton's "Libya model":
Referring to the Libya comparison, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Wednesday that she hadn't "seen that as part of any discussions so I'm not aware that that's a model that we're using.The train to the summit seemed back on its track. Then Donald Trump derailed it again.
"I haven't seen that that's a specific thing. I know that that comment was made. There's not a cookie cutter model on how this would work."<
During a press conference yesterday he was asked about the "Libya model" issue (vid) and, in a seemingly off the cuff remark, managed to push the divisive comparison to a new level:
“The model, if you look at that model with Gaddafi, that was a total decimation. We went in there to beat him. Now that model would take place if we don’t make a deal, most likely. But if we make a deal, I think Kim Jong-un is going to be very, very happy.”One might call that the 'art of the mafia deal': "Sign here or I will kill you."
Some media pretend that Trump was only "assuring" Kim Jong-un. Reuters headlined Trump seeks to placate North Korea's Kim over uncertain summit; the New York Times: Trump and North Korea Rebuff Bolton’s ‘Libya Model’; Politico: Trump offers North Korea’s Kim assurances and a warning.
In my book a thread of "total decimation" is a quite a bit more than "a warning".
The British Guardian had a more realistic take: Donald Trump's threat to Kim Jong-un: make a deal or suffer same fate as Gaddafi.
The threat Trump made shows North Korea that it was right to acquire nuclear weapons and the capability to launch them onto the continental United States. Giving them up would be suicidal.
Trump also mumbled that he would give "strong assurances" to North Korea and Kim Jong-un for their safety should they make a deal. He did not explain what those assurances would be. The way Trump destroyed the nuclear agreement with Iran, which came with "strong assurances" from a U.S president and a UN Security Council endorsement, demonstrates that no assurance the U.S. ever gives is worth the paper it is written on.
When the summit was announced I gave it little chance to succeed because there were too many potential spoilers with interests to keep the conflict with North Korea going. These include John Bolton, the U.S. military and the Japan's president Abe.
North Korea will surely respond to Trump's "total decimation" threat. It will likely pull out of the summit, planned for June 12 in Singapore. It may come back if the White House backtracks on Trump's remarks. China, which is nudging North Korea and the U.S. towards making a deal, will let the White House know what it needs to do.
But I now believe that the summit, if it takes place at all, has zero chance to succeed. Trump has no knowledge of the political and technical details and no feel for Asian culture. He will huff and puff and insult his negotiation partner. He will likely demand the total nuclear disarmament of North Korea. He will end up with no deal.
Only after that failure will he learn that a "total decimation" of North Korea is not an option he can pursue.
Reprinted with permission from Moon of Alabama.