N. Korea Seeks Leverage in Upcoming Talks
Just days after releasing 3 imprisoned Americans, N. Korea lashed out late yesterday at suggestions that it must dismantle its entire nuclear program like Libya did in the 2000s. It also criticized the upcoming US/S. Korean military exercises and threatened to pull out of the Kim/Trump summit in June. So what is Kim's strategy?
1. First, Kim realizes that President Trump and American officials like John Bolton are over-promising regarding what is likely to lead from talks with N. Korea in June. Kim knows that to save face, Trump now needs results from the summit more than N. Korea does.
2. Kim is signalling that if Trump wants N. Korea to rein in its nuclear and long-range missile programs, he expects substantial economic concessions in return including a quick end to most sanctions.
3. Kim is also burnishing his reputation at home by showing that N. Korea will not be bullied by the United States.
4. And, most importantly, Kim is cautioning Trump that while it may reduce its nuclear program [especially its long-range missile program], it won't completely dismantle its nuclear weapons capability as Bolton and others demand.
What will happen next? Kim wants the world to believe that it's not desperate for a deal and that when it sits down with Washington, it does so as an equal. Kim is not likely to withdraw from the June summit unless Trump returns to the type of threatening rhetoric he used in 2017 and earlier this year. Kim will now wait to see how the Trump administration responds.