Joe Cirincione, chief of the disarmament group Ploughshares, has a cogent analysis of why the Hanoi summit of President Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un failed.
The opportunity, he notes, was this:
In Hanoi, North Korea wanted to trade some of their nuclear capability for most of the sanctions. Trump offered some of the sanctions for most of their nuclear capability. There was a deal to be made, but Trump proved too incompetent to make it.
Now the president’s State Department envoy, Stephen Biegun, is articulating the administration’s new negotiating strategy:
“We are not going to do denuclearization incrementally,” Biegun said during a nuclear policy conference organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC, on Monday.
Cirincione sees Bolton’s hand in the change, which he says North Korea will never accept.
Bolton has now raised the demand to all of everything before the United States does anything. Having convinced Trump to “go big,” likely knowing it would fail, he sabotaged an already difficult summit, popularized the myth that the failure of past agreements was entirely the fault of North Korea, and set U.S. policy on auto-destruct. Sanctions and military threats will not force Pyongyang to collapse or comply. Instead, this will lead to either acceptance of their nuclear status or war.
What is being kicked away is the strategy of South Korean president Moon Jae-in to establish parallel tracks of denuclearization and de-escalation in which both sides would take simultaneous incremental steps.
Oddly, leading Democrats in Washington are siding with Trump administration hawks in pressing for a harder line in negotiations rather than supporting Moon’s agenda of making a deal to reduce the nuclear danger and end the Korean war.
Trump, no fan of the costly U.S. military presence on the Korean peninsula, was open to the incremental approach, especially if it could lead to a Nobel Peace Prize.
Now, Cirincione says, U.S. policy is in “auto-destruct” mode.