The abrupt end to the February 2019 Trump-Kim summit in Vietnam shows both leaders’ failed approaches via “big threats, big egos, and bad bets” as New York Time’s journalists report. Without an anticipated deal on nuclear policies, liaisons, easing sanctions or peace affirmations, the world senses the setback looming larger. At the Singapore summit in 2018, there was the hope of reconvening to sign a declaration of peace. Now that the confidence subsides, what happens next?
The North Koreans had been playing hardball ahead of the summit, hoping to lift sanctions. In exchange, they were willing to concede nuclear facility closures. Trump’s unexpected departure from the negotiation table signifies a stance of taking no deals when the US demands are not met. Meanwhile, conflicting narratives seem to indicate the disparity of expectations has developed to hinder clear communications and understandings. Trump claims the North Koreans demanded sanctions to be lifted entirely; the North Koreans insist they only ask for partial easing of sanctions. Kim hopes to advance North Korea’s economic goals and normalize relations with the US; Trump desires to see a denuclearized North Korea and advance his image/glory on the world stage.
The failed summit leaves the future of US-North Korean diplomacy uncertain. North Korea puts it out there that US is "missing an opportunity that comes once in a thousand years"; the US on the other hand, keeps the door open to further negotiations. NPR publishes an analysis by Professor Samore of Brandeis University that surmises “a blessing in disguise”：
"Kim Jong Un will not abandon negotiations and will not resume nuclear and missile testing. First, North Korea has already made sufficient progress toward the development of thermonuclear weapons and long-range missiles so that a continuation of the moratorium on testing does not impose a significant technical price…. A resumption of testing might provoke Beijing and Moscow to once again join Washington's campaign of 'maximum pressure.'"
A real deal may not be so far-fetched. There may be more developments to come inevitably.
Will North Korea move from the modest dismantling of Yongbyon nuclear site to a level of denuclearization acceptable to the global community? Will Kim, who gained spotlight through expansion of nuclear weapons, be willing to reduce or eliminate weapons of mass destruction? Will Trump exercise diplomatic prudence and work with his advisors and allies to seek the best courses of actions? What reciprocal actions will the US and its allies need to take to reach a real deal? These are the questions to ponder. There are many factors and nuances that will affect the outcome these globally important negotiations.