In a (not) surprising turn of events, the summit between the US and North Korea was called off this week just three weeks before it was to take place.
Although Republicans were already nominating Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize and commemorative coins were prematurely minted, the President abruptly cancelled the much-hyped summit after a week of opposing jabs sent via Twitter and media reports between Trump’s team and the North Koreans.
Talk of a summit to discuss a solution to the increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula have been going on since Trump first sat down behind the Resolute Desk in the White House.
At first, the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un, began threatening a nuclear strike against his neighbors, then Japan, then the United States. As he continued to test long-range missiles and detonated nuclear tests over the past few years, the unpredictable young ruler was working his way onto the world stage. What he really needed was an audience with a true world leader.
This March, Kim took a bullet-proof train to China and secretly met with President Xi Jinping in Beijing, the first foreign trip for the young Korean leader. Fearing a coup or assassination attempt, the meeting was not publicly disclosed until after Kim was safely back home.
The following month, Kim crossed the Demilitarized Zone and met with South Korean President Moon-Jae-in, becoming the first of the Kim Dynasty to meet with their southern counterparts since fighting ended in the Korean War in 1953.
Kim has been working on his public perception all year, and began to thaw the ice between him and the rest of the civilized world after his many years of threats and taunting. All at once, Kim seemed like a real leader, and not the savage dictator he had been during his first six years in power.
Then came the big play.
Kim sent a message to Donald Trump through the South Korean President that he was willing to sit down for a face-to-face summit.
Like an impulsive child, Trump announced publicly that he would met with Kim for a summit, and declared victory without even laying out any material goals for the meeting, and without first securing concessions.
By the time Trump’s team realized they were too committed to back down, the White House and its surrogates tried to set parameters for the meeting, including that North Korean would have to agree to dismantle its nuclear weapons program in order for Trump to attend the summit.
Kim quickly sent messages that he would stop testing his nuclear missiles, and he would destroy his testing facilities, concessions that did nothing to his existing nuclear weapons that still make his secretive regime a danger to the entire world.
Make no mistake. Nuclear weapons are the only thing that make Kim Jong-un a player. Without them, he’s a deadman. In fact, North Korea calls its nukes their “treasured sword”.
In the past few weeks, as Trump was celebrating his brilliance for accepting the proposed summit, his Republican cheerleaders in Congress began nominating Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize, unquestionably premature before the meeting took place and way before any results came
In another brilliant move, the White House minted 250 commemorative Summit coins depicting Trump and Kim staring each other down.
Things seemed to be moving smoothly toward the meeting set for June 12th in Singapore when Trumpers began sending dangerously ominous messages about North Korea through various media interviews.
First, Trump’s National Security Adviser, former UN Ambassador John Bolton, a conservative war monger from the George W. Bush Administration that favors a preemptive military attack on N. Korea, said in a news interview that N. Korea could follow the “Libya model” of disarmament, referring to how Muammar Gaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons program in 2003 in exchange for ending UN sanctions against Libya.
Trump doubled-down on Bolton’s message when he said the U.S. model in Libya could happen if Kim did not make a deal at the summit.
Then this week, Vice President Mike Pence reiterated Trump’s threat, saying that North Korea would only end up like Libya is Kim didn’t make a deal at the summit.
For a quick recap, let’s review what happened in Libya.
Just eight years after Gaddafi’s deal to end US-backed sanctions, a civil war (also backed by the US) toppled him, and he was executed in the streets by rebel militia members.
This week, two messages from North Korea criticized Bolton’s and Pence’s comments, with one calling Pence a “political dummy”.
The tit-for-tat threats and insults led to a surprise announcement Thursday by President Trump that the summit would be cancelled because of North Korea’s “tremendous anger and open hostility”.
Abruptly cancelling a pending summit between super powers pointing nuclear missiles at each other is a serious step, and one that surely was sent through proper diplomatic channels, right?
Nope. Trump delivered his message through a three paragraph letter aides say he dictated word-for-word.
Worse, the tone was that of a breakup letter between prepubescent teenagers, expressing despair for the missed opportunity, and including a biting threat of retaliation.
Trump wrote that he “was very much looking forward to being there with you” but that it was “inappropriate” to “have this long-planned meeting”. Trump said he “felt a wonderful dialogue was building between you and me” and that “some day, I look very much forward to meeting you”.
As always, Trump had to throw in a bully challenge. “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”
But in the end, Trump seemed to hold out hope for a union, after all.
“If you change your mind”, he added, “please do not hesitate to call or write”, and signed it, “Sincerely yours”.
Diplomacy has gone from direct calls on red phones and late-night meetings between seasoned diplomats to a threatening breakup letter from a President sounding more like a jilted lover.
Sadly, the world will have to wait for more serious people to step in and help negotiate what could be the defining achievement of Trump’s presidency.
For now, hotheaded John Bolton and carnival barker Trump should let Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and others continue working to put together the framework of a real summit that could have a real chance for real results.
Please, no more talk of the Nobel Peace Prize, no more coins, and no more threats. Millions, if not billions, of lives are at stake because a madman has his finger on his nuclear button, and an unpredictable bully has his finger on our nuclear arsenal.
PUBLISHED MAY 25 at 12:01 a.m.