How Trump Got Punked By Kim Jong-Un

(FILES) This combination of file photos created on March 9, 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un during the 5th Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea Cell Chairpersons in this photo from North Korea's offic... (FILES) This combination of file photos created on March 9, 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un during the 5th Conference of the Workers' Party of Korea Cell Chairpersons in this photo from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) taken on December 23, 2017 and released on December 24, 2017 (L) and US President Donald Trump speaking to the press in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on February 9, 2018. US President Donald Trump agreed on March 8, 2018 to a historic first meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in a stunning development in America's high-stakes nuclear standoff with North Korea / AFP PHOTO / KCNA via KNS AND AFP PHOTO / - AND Saul LOEB / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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May 22, 2018 8:51 a.m.

As the U.S.-North Korea Summit on June 12th now seems increasingly in doubt, I wanted to review the timeline and what it tells us. Relations between the two countries appeared to take a dramatic turn on March 8th when President Trump chose to interpret a comment from a South Korean government official as a North Korean invitation to meet. Trump promptly accepted. This spurred two months of confidence-building measures and overtures, including a meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas at the DMZ and the release of three U.S. nationals imprisoned in the North.

We know now that the summit itself seems to be in question — both whether it will happen at all and whether the U.S. should participate since the North Koreans seem to be signaling that “denuclearization” won’t actually be on the agenda.

The North Koreans appear to have waited until Trump announced a date and a venue to shift gears and make clear that giving up their nuclear weapons was definitely not on the agenda. In the lead-up President Trump was veritably giddy. In late April Trump praised Kim as “very honorable” for his good-faith negotiations in preparation for the summit and then later effused over his “excellent” treatment of U.S. prisoners and how “nice” he had been to free them early. (Twenty-two-year-old Otto Warmbier received an unexplained fatal brain injury in North Korean custody last year.) The White House was so eager they ever had this “challenge coin” struck to commemorate the upcoming summit.

Again, look at the timeline.

March 8th: Trump agrees to meet with Kim.

April 27th: Inter-Korean Summit at the DMZ.

May 9th: North Korea releases three U.S. citizens from custody.

May 10th: Trump announces summit will take place on June 12th in Singapore.

After all this, it was just five days later when the North Koreans canceled a planning meeting and began signaling that “denuclearization” was not up for debate. It’s all pretty clear (and this was widely predicted by area experts). Kim waited and waited and waited, fluffed and fluffed and fluffed until Trump had locked himself into a time and a place, before threatening to cancel and saying publicly North Korea would not give up its nuclear weapons. This way Trump is either faced with attending the summit, in which the two men will meet as equals and nuclearization will not be up for discussion, or canceling a meeting upon which Trump has banked so much both domestically and internationally.

Two days ago a “U.S. official” was left to lament to The Washington Post: “It doesn’t look like they want to denuclearize at all.”

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