Fred Henneke, Attorney & Counselor-At-Law

NORTH KOREAN NON-SUMMIT; 05/25/2018

I guess it was inevitable, but still regretable. Traditional diplomacy failed to produce sustainable results, so might as well try un-traditional methods. I didn’t expect Trump and Kim to come down from the proverbial mountain with ten steps to lasting peace, but I did believe there was a chance that they could agree on broad, somewhat vague principles that could guide the negotiators.

I am surprised that it was President Trump was the one who scotched the meeting. As I posted earlier, I felt President Trump could not forego a chance to strut his stuff on the world stage with everyone eagerly hanging on his every tweet. It seems to me that the President finally realized that the meeting with Kim would not produce the grand breakthrough that he, alone, could bring about.  Anything less that lasting peace would be a hit to his self-proclaimed negotiating skills. So, rather than fail, bail

What else might have contributed to the decision to pull out? It is possible that the President’s advisers finally demonstrated that Mr. Trump did not have sufficient grasp of the details and nuances of the North Korean nuclear weaponry program to safely discuss the same with Kim. It is clear that the references to the “Libyan” model by National Security Adviser John Bolton and Vice-President Mike Pence were not well-received in Pyongyang. After all, the full Libyan model ended up with Qadaffi overthrown and killed by his own people.  Perhaps they could have referenced the South African model instead. Also, Kim may have felt the need to push back against the President’s assumption of a full de-nuclearization as a result of the summit.

It is uncertain exactly what role China played in this minuet. We know that prior to the announcement of the summit the Chinese were enforcing the UN sanctions more vigorously. We also know that Kim visited Beijing shortly before the announcement. He also visited with Xi right before the fiery responses to the Pence/Bolton pronouncements.  And, the Chinese were easing the enforcement of the sanctions. We need to keep in mind that the Chinese do not want a unified Korean peninsula under South Korea; they like having that buffer between themselves and American troops. They fear a collapse of North Korea because the humanitarian crisis would fall on them. It is also possible China does not want North Korea to completely surrender its nuclear capabilities because those weapons are the best guarantee of North Korea’s survival as an pseudo-independent vassal of China.

And then there is the biggest loser from the cancellation – South Korea. President Moon invested hugely in facilitating the meeting; clearly he realizes that the bulk of the suffering and loss in the event of a military conflict between the US and North Korea would fall upon South Korea.I expect that  Moon will continue to try and bring about some form of rapprochement between the US and North Korea while he works to improve the relationships between South Korea and North Korea and China and South Korea. The path to lessening the dependent relationship with the United States lies in cozyng up to China.

Is the situation on the Korean Peninsula more dangerous now than before? I think not. It is actually less dangerous. Having looked over the precipice into the abyss, no one wants to jump in. My concerns remains with an inadvertent escalation that gets out of hand. Hopefully there are enough safe guards in place to prevent that possibility.

STAY TUNED

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