You may recall that the summit meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un held with much fanfare in Vietnam at the end of February ended abruptly, with a scheduled luncheon of the two leaders canceled and both parties leaving Vietnam immediately after with no joint communiqué. This was a sign that things ended badly but there was no explanation for what happened.
We now have some insight. Reuters says that it has seen a document that Trump gave Kim on that final morning that contained demands that had long been rejected by North Korea and they decided that the US was not serious and that it was not worth talking anymore.
On the day that their talks in Hanoi collapsed last month, U.S. President Donald Trump handed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a piece of paper that included a blunt call for the transfer of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and bomb fuel to the United States, according to the document seen by Reuters.
A lunch between the two leaders was canceled the same day. While neither side has presented a complete account of why the summit collapsed, the document may help explain it.
The document seems to have been the work of Trump’s hardline neoconservative advisor John Bolton who has long urged the so-called Libya model on North Korea.
The document’s existence was first mentioned by White House national security adviser John Bolton in television interviews he gave after the two-day summit. Bolton did not disclose in those interviews the pivotal U.S. expectation contained in the document that North Korea should transfer its nuclear weapons and fissile material to the United States.
The document appeared to represent Bolton’s long-held and hardline “Libya model” of denuclearization that North Korea has rejected repeatedly. It probably would have been seen by Kim as insulting and provocative, analysts said.
After the summit, a North Korean official accused Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of “gangster-like” demands, saying Pyongyang was considering suspending talks with the United States and may rethink its self-imposed ban on missile and nuclear tests.
What happened to Libya after it gave up its nuclear weapons program is something that North Korea does not need to be reminded of.
Seven years after a denuclearization agreement was reached between the United States and Libya’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi, the United States took part in a NATO-led military operation against his government and he was overthrown by rebels and killed.
Last year, North Korea officials called Bolton’s plan “absurd” and noted the “miserable fate” that befell Gaddafi.
Jenny Town, a North Korea expert at the Washington-based Stimson Center think tank, said the content of the U.S. document was not surprising.
“This is what Bolton wanted from the beginning and it clearly wasn’t going to work,” Town said. “If the U.S. was really serious about negotiations they would have learned already that this wasn’t an approach they could take.”
Describing Bolton, one of the advocates of the Iraq invasion, as a ‘gangster’ is not that inaccurate. Trump had previously rejected the Libya model as an option. What is disturbing is that Bolton may now be calling the shots on such a delicate issue, taking advantage of Trump’s ignorance and laziness to push his agenda of US military adventurism.