The North Korean President Donald J. Trump’s summit with North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un, recently set for June 12 in Singapore, along with the cancellation of a high-level meeting that was scheduled for tomorrow with South Korea to discuss setting up military and Red Cross talks aimed at reducing border tension and restarting reunions between families separated by the Korean War, suggests the young dictator is testing President Trump.
The North Korean dictator’s new brinkmanship caught diplomats off guard.
Blaming the long-scheduled “Max Thunder”military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea, which involve U.S. stealth fighters and B-52 bombers, is just more of North Korea’s tired old obfuscation.
Kim didn’t complain about Max Thunder before the air combat drills even though North Korea used such drills in the past as a reason to avoid talks with South Korea.
Kim recently said he understood the need for such military exercises. As the New York Times reported:
“Kim Jong-un had said previously that he understands the need and the utility of the United States and the Republic of Korea continuing in its joint exercises,” Ms. Nauert [the State Department spokeswoman] said, using South Korea’s official name. “They are exercises that are legal, they’re planned well, well in advance.”
Ms. Nauert also said the United States had received no notification of any possible change in plans for the summit meeting next month. “We will continue to go ahead and plan the meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un,” she said.
So what is the real reason North Korean dictator decided to test President Trump’s resolve now?
Reuters’ Josh Smith reports that Kim’s renewed bellicosity could be aimed at testing Trump’s willingness to make concessions ahead of the summit:
A U.S. government expert on North Korea said Kim may also be trying to gauge whether Trump is willing to walk away from the meeting, which has prompted the president’s supporters to suggest he deserves to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
Any acquiescence by Trump to a North Korean demand for a halt to joint drills would likely undermine South Korean and Japanese trust in his commitment to their security. Kim has also shown a desire to win international approval for his diplomatic outreach, and any sign that he is sabotaging the talks could damage this effort.
One may need to look no further than President Trump’s tweet which seemed to undo tough sanctions imposed on the Chinese company for cheating on sanctions for breaking U.S. law:
President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!
As explained by Paul Mozur, ZTE was fined $1.19 billion for selling phones with U.S. chips, modems and software to all five major embargoed countries — Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Syria and Cuba. A ZTE company document featured flow charts for best practices to circumvent American sanctions.
Last month, the Commerce Department said ZTE had violated its agreement with the United States because it didn’t punish senior management for having violated the sanctions. Instead ZTE paid them bonuses and lied about it. As punishment, the department forbade American technology companies from selling their products to ZTE for seven years. This forced ZTE to shut down major operations last week.
By undoing the sanctions so deserved by ZTE, Trump may now be perceived as too pliable by Young North Korean dictator.
Or Kim’s testing of Trump just may be a return to North Korea’s usual tough negotiation tactics of delay and obfuscation.
Regardless of the reason for the testing we are about to see if President Trump bargains for any deal like teams Clinton and Obama or if he will stand firm like President Reagan and his Trust but verify.