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What’s Next After the North Korea Nuclear Summit Breakdown?

What’s Next After the North Korea Nuclear Summit Breakdown?

The Trump-Kim Hanoi Summit ended without any agreement, but that doesn’t mean it’s over.

Now that the Hanoi nuclear summit talks have ended in failure, the two crucial questions are (1) whether there will be a major escalation of tensions and (2) whether the North Koreans have made a fundamental decision to keep their nuclear program, despite the pressures.

Only Kim Jong-Un can answer the second question.

Pres. Trump himself clearly wants to avoid an escalation. His comments were firm but not harsh, giving Kim a chance to reconsider. He continued to stress the good personal relations between the two leaders, referred to his counterpart by his honorific title, “Chairman Kim,” and avoided diminutive nicknames like “Rocket Man.” That keeps the door open for negotiations, but Trump will not make any more goodwill payments like those that suckered his predecessors. Trump himself has already made one gesture by suspending joint US-South Korean military exercises. One important question now is whether Trump intends to resume those regular exercises.

For Kim, the main question is what it always was: Will he take costly, irreversible steps to begin dismantling his nuclear program? The summit failure shows he has not yet decided to do that, which is different from saying he has definitely decided to keep the weapons and rocket program. We already know North Korea is still building new facilities. We don’t know if the US will call them out on that, either publicly or through leaks.

To prevent an escalation, Kim must avoid any actions to show how “powerful” and independent he is, such as testing a missile. In making these decisions, Kim faces his usual problem: he cannot get good information about the risks and rewards because he is so isolated. Offer the Big Boss advice he doesn’t like and you die, as one of Kim’s aides did simply for falling asleep in a meeting.

If Kim does not escalate, then the US probably won’t tighten current economic sanctions, at least not immediately. It will keep the current ones in place and work closely with allies on their multilateral implementation. China and Russia will continue to undercut them and probably do even more. If Kim does take a provocative act, however, then expect much tighter US sanctions and a very tense situation.

Assuming Kim does nothing provocative, it is uncertain whether if the US will resume the joint military exercises it has suspended. A resumption is likely, but any announcement will probably be postponed to give Kim a chance to reconsider. If the US does resume exercises on the peninsula, North Korea could very well escalate in response. That’s why the choices are so delicate and consequential.

Trump’s decision to walk away has ramifications for all of America’s negotiating partners. It will surely cause a shudder among China’s trade negotiators since it tells them Trump won’t accept a weak deal. For China’s trade negotiators, that means a final signing ceremony is no sure thing. The US, Trump is saying, wants a strong deal and nothing less.

The days of John Kerry are well and truly buried.


Charles Lipson is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of Chicago, where he is founding director of PIPES, the Program on International Politics, Economics, and Security. He can be reached at [email protected]


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It’s not a “breakdown” as much as Trump did not fold to the Nork’s demands…like every other recent President….

    MattMusson in reply to PaulB. | March 1, 2019 at 8:45 am

    I posted it yesterday but it bears repeating.

    Kim is in a very precarious situation. The Generals murdered his grandfather one day before he was to meet with South Korea to discuss reunification after the Soviet Union fell.

    Kim’s dad was batshit crazy and his policies ended up with 12% – 20% of his country starving to death. He eventually died when he slipped in the shower – on some bullets.

    Kim cannot agree to anything without the General’s approval and without China’s approval.

    Every move here is also reflected in the US China trade talks. They are connected at the hip.

      RedEchos in reply to MattMusson. | March 1, 2019 at 11:28 am

      Sundance has been going in depth on the relationship of China and North Korea. In his opinion our trade deal with China is the real key to this.

      Thomas Wictor had an interesting take about the dynamics of Nork politics and how the Kim family is hostage to the generals. Unfortunately Twitter banned him and removed his threads

        It is obvious that the ChicComs and Norks are negotiating together. It looks like the Norks sensed some leeway to tweak the deal at the last minute with China sanctions being temporarily eased as those negotiations proceed. Trump shut this down by walking away. Now the Norks have nothing.

        So long as Un insists on being a stooge for China’s negotiations or tries to get cute at the last minute, it is right for Trump to cut it off right away. Trump flew to Nam to close on what had already been tacitly agreed to. Un balked. Waste of time. Get up and leave. Un is almost as duplicitous and unreliable. as the US Congress.

    CaptTee in reply to PaulB. | March 2, 2019 at 12:03 am

    …and didn’t the diplomacy “fail” before the last summit also?

    Being able to walk away is part of negotiating. I haven’t read Trump’s book, but even I can figure that out!

Never fails to please Texaco Oil with continued photos like these.

Just an observation from a while back…”Current Reaction”…

The talks did not fail. They have merely moved on to a new phase. This is the, “I don’t think he really meant it. Let’s give him some time to stew and see if he softens his stance” phase – for both of them.

“The days of John Kerry are well and truly buried.”

Only until another Dim takes the Whitehouse. Then that traitorous twat will be back in a position of power.

1. If you’re not willing to walk away from a negotiation then you must be willing to accept whatever’s offered. Anyone who’s negotiating anything of value should know this.

2. What makes Trump’s negotiating style difficult for those who negotiate with him is not that he’s willing to walk away, but that he’ll keep negotiating even after a deal is supposedly finalized.

3. I still think I’d want him sitting on my side of the negotiating table, not the other side.

    Ragspierre in reply to Albigensian. | March 1, 2019 at 12:49 pm

    “…not that he’s willing to walk away, but that he’ll keep negotiating even after a deal is supposedly finalized.”

    Which is called lying, cheating and fraud. All T-rump specialties.

      redc1c4 in reply to Ragspierre. | March 1, 2019 at 1:14 pm

      Mr. Cohen, is that you?

      or did you just get the newest Current Narrative Netw*rk memo of talking points?

      your tired sh!t is so lame, it needs a wheel chair.

        Ragspierre in reply to redc1c4. | March 1, 2019 at 3:09 pm

        You can choose to deny obvious facts that have been known for decades, T-rump sucker. That never makes them “tired”.

        Why did Duh Donald employ Cohen for a decade in various positions?

        Why did he employ mob lawyer Roy Cohn for years before that?

        Because he is a corrupt, lying, cheating NY thug. He’s known for it.

          Barry in reply to Ragspierre. | March 1, 2019 at 6:48 pm

          “mob lawyer Roy Cohn”

          I see this lie passing your lips all the time. Insuation that Cohn was just a mob lawyer –

          Let us note that Cohn was a lawyer for:

          Alan Dershowitz
          New York Yankee’s organization and George Steinbrenner
          Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York
          Many other persons and organizations with no mob connections

          Member of the John Birch Society

          And an advisor to Reagan and Nixon

          The more complete picture a bankrupt, corrupt, and lying lawyer doesn’t want you to know.

          Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | March 1, 2019 at 7:00 pm

          So, you contend Cohn was not “just” a mob lawyer, and one of the most reptilian pukes in New York’s corrupt history?

          From you, high praise…

          Barry in reply to Ragspierre. | March 1, 2019 at 8:50 pm

          I don’t contend anything you fraud. I just listed some of Cohn’s other clients and connections to counter your fraudulent comment.

          Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | March 1, 2019 at 9:36 pm

          Poor old nutter. You don’t even comprehend the language.

          Sad, really…

      JusticeDelivered in reply to Ragspierre. | March 1, 2019 at 8:08 pm

      Seeing as Rags cannot have much of a conversation without resorting to juvenile insults, I would imagine he was a flaming failure in court.

        Ragspierre in reply to JusticeDelivered. | March 1, 2019 at 8:17 pm

        I’m happy to have a conversation. I’ve offered one several times with several posters.

        You are incapable, as proven over many, many days.

        And your imaginings are farcically false. I do quite well in litigation.

          JusticeDelivered in reply to Ragspierre. | March 1, 2019 at 8:58 pm

          If you can stay calm and reasoned in court, then you should be able to do the same on LI.

          Somehow, and I have a great deal of experience dealing with litigators, I find it hard to believe you are a first class litigator.

          Ragspierre in reply to Ragspierre. | March 1, 2019 at 9:38 pm

          But there are SOOOOOOOOOOoooooo many things you can’t comprehend.

          Like the fact that I’ve never made any such claim as being “a first-class litigator”.

          You just can’t tell the truth, can you?

We have the adults on one side working on solidifying world peace contrasted with the petulant children on the left who are willing the utter failure of the talks for no other reason than because they DETEST Trump with every fibre of their being.

Now let that sink in. You have a group of people who would give their left flap for Trump to fail and for people to die simply because they utterly hate Trump.

This is such a refreshing change from watching Barack Obama walk out on the SOFA agreement with Iraq — and fail to ever come back — over a sovereignty issue that is common to such agreements, and has been overcome, before.

NK and China will stay at the table, and DJT will come back, because otherwise we all know Kim gets killed like Gaddafi during the next Democrat presidency. I don’t think they are going to gamble on DJT winning the next election.

Negotiation has not yet begun. Kim assumed he could do as his predecessors have always done with US presidents, and promise something in the future (that will never be delivered) in return for benefits to North Korea now.

As he comes to understand that this won’t work with Trump, then he will have to decide if he is really interested in some sort of deal that would be of great benefit to his country, and guarantee that he remains in control, but will require that he really give up his nuclear weapons and missile programs, and break with China. The penalty for not doing this could very will be the destruction of his regime and his country, if he continues weapons development. Kim will have to think for a while.

A deal with N. Korea that’s favorable for the United States too.