For the U.S president this is undoubtedly a serious blow, but he had no other choice.
Everything could have been so good, at least from Donald Trump’s point of view. He and Kim Jong Un could have become friends on June 12 in Singapore and North Korea would have given up its nuclear weapons — and Trump would have received the Nobel Peace Prize.
The dream is broken, at least for now. With Trump’s cancellation of the summit, the U.S. and Pyongyang’s regime have returned to a relationship of "waiting and sniping” at each other. A new round of accusations and wild, military rhetoric is expected. Even a military conflict in Asia does not seem impossible. Trump has already threatened violence after cancelling the meeting, if Kim does not give up his nuclear arsenal very soon: "Our military is ready."
After a temporary easing of tension and a real North Korean diplomatic offensive, Washington and Pyongyang’s relationship has again significantly cooled in the last few days. Above all, it was becoming increasingly obvious that there were completely different ideas as to what was supposed to be achieved in Singapore, writes the German magazine Der Spiegel.
The Americans were expecting "irreversible, proven and complete" repeal of North Korea’s nuclear program. However, the United States negotiators have not received any signals from their North Korean partners over the past few days that Kim would indeed agree to do so.
At the same time, North Korean rhetoric has clearly intensified: U.S Vice President Mike Pence is described as a “dummy,” while Vice Minister Choe Son-Hui of the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs even threatened Washington with "nuclear confrontation" on Wednesday, if no agreement is reached.
Thus, Trump has reached the point of pulling the emergency brake. Obviously, he does not want to end up withdrawing his main demand during the summit and have Kim come out of it the big winner. Furthermore, Trump has probably realized there is a danger that Kim might go ahead and cancel the meeting himself, making Trump look even weaker. So, he has chosen the lesser evil, at least from his point of view.
For Trump, cancelling the meeting is a serious blow, anyway. For some time now, many experts on North Korea have been warning that Kim would never respond quickly to U.S. demands.
They first recommended long negotiations with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on a diplomatic level, and perhaps, at the end, holding a summit meeting to reach an agreement on the decision. However, Trump inverted the sequence, pushing away all worries and planning to achieve rapid concession from Kim through a mix of tough sanctions and wild threats (“Fire and Fury.”)
Trump spontaneously accepted Kim's proposal for a summit meeting in the spring, obviously because he considers himself "the best mediator of all time" and that he could resolve the problem with North Korea himself. He has now returned to reality and is definitely disappointed. There are a number of reasons why other U.S. presidents before Trump were not able to deal with Kim’s dynasty quickly. Foreign policy is more complicated than real estate transactions in West Palm Beach.
North Korea’s behavior remains difficult to predict. After two visits by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang, it could be assumed that Kim is ready to reach an agreement.
From the U.S. point of view, the exact cause of North Korea’s mounting tension in recent days may be puzzling. Allegedly, Washington believes the reason lies in a power struggle in North Korea, where U.S. intelligence agencies think the prospect of terminating the nuclear program may not have pleased military generals. Kim is probably afraid of a military coup in his absence during his trip to Singapore. This is why after the initial openness toward Trump, he has taken a tougher stance.
Some U.S. comments have hardly helped the situation. Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton, as well as Vice President Pence, have openly spoken about the "Libyan model" in their interviews about North Korea. What they meant was that if Kim gave up the weapons, he would be rewarded with economic assistance. However, the model did not work out for Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Even though he gave up weapons, he was later killed by rebels supported by the United States. The possibility of meeting his fate in the same way may not have pleased Kim and his entourage ...
Trump, typically, always tries to blame others for his failure. The North Koreans, the Chinese, the former U.S. president have all created this problem. This may be the case, but does not change the fact that now, as president, he has to deal with it. His strategy, up to now, has been unsuccessful. The United States does not have a Plan B, as demonstrated by Trump’s first statement after the summit was cancelled. He is playing for time and is still hoping that Kim will make concessions. The summit meeting may still take place, said Trump, if not on June 12, then perhaps later. For the U.S. president, this would be the best solution. Then, he would be able to prove that his plan is still working and that the delay was just a brilliant move.
Of course, this could still happen. But it is not very likely. What is important at the moment is the behavior of the Chinese and Russians. If they ease sanctions against Kim's regime, Trump will be subjected to enormous pressure. He would lose important leverage in the negotiations with Kim and not achieve anything. There would be only two poor decisions left: surrender or make a military strike against the regime — with completely unimaginable consequences for all of Asia and the world.*
*Editor’s note: On June 1, President Trump announced that the summit with Kim would take place on June 12 as originally scheduled.