In spite of Donald Trump’s abrupt cancellation of the planned 12 June Singapore Summit between Kim Jong-un and the US President, all indications point to the summit going ahead either on the initial date or some other day in mid June. It also seems increasingly clear that it was probably never Donald Trump’s intention to cancel the summit in the first place. Rather, it would appear that the US President succumbed to pressure from many of the anti-summit forces around him including the notorious National Security Adviser John Bolton, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and Vice President Michael Pence – all of whom offered provocative and threatening statements towards the DPRK which as intended, initially provoked a furious rhetorical response from Pyongyang that had every right to stand up for its sovereign dignity in the midst of a historic peace process.
However, throughout the back and forth between DPRK officials and Washington’s infamous neocons, the DPRK continued to make preparations and eventually deliver on its promise to destroy its nuclear testing facility while shortly thereafter, Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in held a private meeting where both leaders were later pictured smiling and embracing one another, thus demonstrating that the spirit of good will from their initial summit continues to grow.
Around the time of the second Kim/Moon meeting, Donald Trump told reporters that “everyone plays games” in response to a question about whether the summit has actually been cancelled or whether the whole thing is a giant double-bluff.
Such speculation was further compounded by the fact that in Trump’s personal letter to Kim where he “cancelled” the summit, Trump’s tone was generally amiable (except for a classically Trumpian remark about his big nuclear button). Likewise, the DPRK responded in a manner that was sincere regarding Pyongyang’s wishes to see the summit continue along its original lines.
Now with all sides quietly admitting that private communications have intensified between Washington and Pyongyang, it seems assured that a Trump-Kim summit will in fact happen sometime soon and that it will happen in Singapore – probably on or around the 12th of June.
The fact that the summit is likely “back on” is largely a credit to Kim Jong-un’s diplomatic efforts. When Trump cancelled in a letter that was 90% magnanimous and 10% threatening, the DPRK would have had every moral and ethical justification to publicly condemn stereotypical US hypocrisy. The DPRK could have further determined that the “buck stops” with the President and therefore blamed Trump for “leading the DPRK on” without holding up his end of the bargain. But while such an approach from the DPRK would have been objectively justified, diplomatically it would have played into the hands of those in Washington who have openly conspired to ruin the summit before it began.
Instead, Kim Jong-un’s fully magnanimous response transformed what could have been a point scoring match between two world leaders into a chance for the DPRK to reiterate its commitment to peace, its commitment to de-nuclearisation and a commitment to a world free from weapons of mass destruction. Instead of responding as an unjustly spurned party to a negotiation, the DPRK took the high road and in doing so, Pyongyang crucially bought Trump time to publicly revel in the good will the DPRK had shown in its response, thus de-facto exposing Bolton, Haley and Pence as the true instigators of “anger” and “hostility” all along.
It remains my view that Trump not only wants the meeting but craves the meeting with Kim Jong-un for reasons to do with personal and geopolitical prestige that will almost certainly help him to portray the “strong man who delivers” image among his base. This is the same domestic base that has already indicated that they seek a Nobel Peace Prize for Trump, merely for showing up at a meeting with Kim. In this sense, Bolton, Haley and Pence have conspired not just against peace, but against Trump personally. The ‘neoconspirators’ have tried to prohibit Trump’s moment of glory and it goes without saying that someone like Trump would not be pleased with such a reality.
The DPRK’s diplomats and its head of state seem to have clearly grasped the dynamic in Washington and acted accordingly in order to turn a lose-lose situation (e. g. no summit) into the present win-win situation where the following is almost certainly happening:
1. The schism over the peace process in Washington will have convinced Moon Jae-in, Kim Jong-un, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin to re-double efforts in making the peace process Asian authored, owned and executed at every level.
2. The DPRK has not been put-off from fulfilling its own generous pre-summit promises in spite of the mixed signals coming from Washington. In this sense, while neocon dogs bark – the peace caravan moves on.
3. Trump is now in a position to say that the DPRK did what he ultimately wants them to do, take credit for it (however morally unjustified) and proceed with the meeting.
In other words, Bolton and his fellow neocons prepared a trap for both Trump and Kim that was intended to return both leaders to their days of exchanging extreme insults on the world’s stage. Instead, Kim resisted this temptation and bought Trump the time necessary to regroup against Bolton and push forward with the summit that now is back on the table in all but name.
If there was a Nobel Prize for diplomatic sophistication the clear winner would be Kim Jong-un.