SEOUL – National Security Advisor John Bolton, talking his usual tough talk, may have prompted North Korea to walk away from the much-ballyhooed June summit between Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un. Certainly it led to a clarification: there is no way in hell Kim is going to give up his entire nuclear arsenal and allow inspectors to crawl all over his country before North Korea sees “The benefits start to flow,” as Bolton proclaimed on ABC over the weekend.
In a statement carried by the North Korean news agency, obviously with Kim Jong Un’s approval, the first vice-minister of foreign affairs, Kim Kye Gwan feigned something close to heartbreak on hearing such “Unbridled remarks” being “Recklessly made” in the United States, and singled out Bolton in particular: “We do not hide our feeling of repugnance toward him.”
American wishful thinkers should have figured all that out well before North Korea’s powerful vice foreign minister Kim Kye Gwan said Wednesday “We will not be interested in talks anymore if [they] only try to push us unilaterally into a corner and force us to give up nukes.” Moreover, he added, in comments carried by the North’s state media, “It would be inevitable to reconsider whether to respond to the upcoming summit with the U.S.”.
One factor might have been “Max Thunder,” the joint U.S.-South Korean air exercises opened last Friday in which U.S. and South Korean war planes are spending two weeks testing their “Inter-operational capability” – a show of force that North Korea routinely, annually lambasts as revealing plans to invade the North.
North Korea gave that as the reason for cancelling talks Wednesday in which senior officials from both North and South were to have met at the same truce village of Panmunjom where Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in staged their summit on April 27.
As Bolton told ABC’s Martha Raddatz,”We want to see the denuclearization process so completely underway that it’s irreversible.” Getting specific, he said that North Korea’s nuclear warheads, under inspection, should be shipped to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where they would be systematically destroyed at the nuclear research center run by the Department of Energy.
The dreams of a deal whereby Kim sees the light, acquiesces and bows down in talks with Trump may have been encouraged by one gesture the North Koreans are making.