In an interview with Fox News this weekend, national security adviser John Bolton said that President Donald Trump was giving North Korea every opportunity to disavow their nuclear weapons program, normalize relations with the international community, and regain the economic and diplomatic channels that have been off-limits to them for so many years.
“The president is giving Kim Jong Un a master class on how to hold a door open for somebody, and if the North Koreans can’t figure out how to walk through it, even the president’s fiercest critics will not be able to say it’s because he didn’t open it wide enough,” Bolton said. “If they make a strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons, they can do it within a year. We are waiting to see evidence that in fact that strategic decision has been made.”
So far, the evidence is mixed at best. A United Nations report was published this week outlining the ways in which North Korea continues to produce material for its nuclear and missile programs and continues to evade sanctions by conducting illegal trades of oil and coal with other nations. At the same time, the regime has handed over the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War and has begun dismantling one of their most important weapons facilities.
Referring to the latter measures, the North Korean state media outlet Rodong Sinmun wrote an editorial this week calling on the United States to drop all sanctions immediately as a reward for the regime’s good faith efforts. The editorial accused the U.S. of “acting opposite” to its stated intentions of improving relations with the Kim Jong Un government.
“There have been outrageous arguments coming out of the U.S. State Department that it won’t ease sanctions until a denuclearization is completed, and reinforcing sanctions is a way to raise its negotiating power,” the editorial said. “How could the sanctions, which were a stick the U.S. administration had brandished as part of its hostile policy against us, promote the two countries’ amity?”
The problem is, the North Koreans have hardly gone out of their way to make these negotiations go more smoothly. Negotiators from the regime stood up Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during one of his recent visits to the region, and there have continued to be words of war coming from the government’s various mouthpieces.
Some analysts have waved this off as “just how the North Koreans are,” but this kind of on-again-off-again negotiating style is unlikely to maintain President Trump’s interest for long. He wants to make a deal – for peace and, frankly, for his own legacy – but he’s not going to allow Kim Jong Un to make a fool out of him on the world stage. Kim ought to think twice about playing games with this president.