North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump AP / SUSAN WALSH
Kim Jong Un only wanted to engage with the president. Now he’s turning on him.
The part where Donald Trump described Joe Biden as a step above a “rabid dog” got all the attention, but the president’s tweet to Kim Jong Un earlier this month had another significant message: Better seize the day, because tomorrow could bring a President Biden. “I am the only one who can get you where you have to be,” Trump wrote. “You should act quickly, get the deal done. See you soon!”
The Kim regime “now considers summits without payment for cooperation as empty diplomacy that merely helps … Trump raise domestic political support,” Leif-Eric Easley, a Korea expert at Ewha Womans University, in Seoul, told me. It’s ironically the mirror-image argument to what Trump’s critics contended when he became the first American president to meet with North Korea’s dictator: that it would grant Kim valuable legitimacy while leaving the United States with nothing of substance to show for it.
The North Koreans “clearly believe that Trump wants [a deal] more than they do,” Cha noted, in reference to why they may not view the Trump era as the golden moment the U.S. has portrayed. They “don’t really care,” because “they want to keep their weapons” rather than relinquish them for what’s currently on offer from Trump, and “if they can get something else for giving up pieces of the program they no longer need, that’s fine.”