These remarks appear to signal that, despite Trump's conversation with Moon, the U.S. does not take Kim's year-end ultimatum seriously. They also suggest that Trump considers the current escalation of tensions between Washington and Pyongyang nothing more than the posturing he indulges in prior to any significant negotiation.
In both cases, Trump is likely to be proven wrong for two reasons.
The first is that Trump may have just overplayed his hand. There are indications that Kim thinks the Sohae test Sunday -- the nature of which remains unclear -- significantly improves his diplomatic position. While the North's tough talk may also be posturing, Washington now risks forfeiting some of Kim's willingness to negotiate the elimination of the North's nuclear and ballistic-missile capacities. "The results of the recent important test will have an important effect on changing the strategic position of the DPRK once again in the near future," KCNA reported Sunday.
The second is that by now Trump almost certainly understands the extent to which policy cliques in Washington have circumscribed his agenda on questions such as Russia, Syria and North Korea. It may be to his credit that he persists in the face of this resistance, but his chances of overcoming it are, if anything, diminished after nearly three years of incessant subterfuge on the foreign policy side. Trump does not have a Kim Jong-un problem; he has a "deep state" problem at home.
When U.S.North Korean talks have collapsed on previous occasions, official U.S. records tend to blur the chronology of events, erase causality, and then imply that responsibility for failure lies with the North Koreans. While there are already indications that we will see the same this time, there has been enough good reporting, mostly in other-than-corporate media, to make this fallacy plain. No one should be fooled when we read once again about those bellicose, irrational North Koreans.
All indications now suggest that Kim plans another of his blockbuster New Year's speeches, similar to those delivered in previous years. In 2018 he announced that the North had achieved a weaponized nuclear capability with which to deter threats from the U.S. This year he declared he would be willing to meet Trump "anytime" while announcing his "new way" should diplomacy fail.
The first of these assertions is now patently true. After a year of disappointments, the second awaits the outcome of the current impasse. We will have to see in coming weeks.
After the talks in Stockholm collapsed in October, North Korea termed the debacle "sickening." So it is, considering the opportunity that the U.S. not for the first time is in the process of intently squandering.
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