Trump pulls out of historic meeting with Kim
Is Trump’s “truly sad moment in history” actually a win? Yesterday, the US president cancelled his upcoming peace summit with North Korea, just hours after its nuclear test site was disabled.
“The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it,” wrote President Donald Trump (or his ghostwriter) in The Art of the Deal, first published back in 1987. “Know when to walk away from the table.”
And so yesterday, 20 days before he was due to meet North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, for a potentially historic nuclear summit, Trump walked away.
The White House released a copy of the letter addressed directly to Kim. “I was very much looking forward to being there with you,” Trump wrote. “Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.”
He was referring to a statement by a North Korean official calling Vice-President Mike Pence a “political dummy”. On Monday, Pence had compared North Korea’s potential fate to that of Libya, a North African country that agreed to give up its nuclear weapons programme in 2003. However, eight years later its leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed by rebels, with the support of the West.
Angered by this comparison, yesterday North Korea warned of a “nuclear-to-nuclear showdown” if Trump did not want to meet at the summit.
Hours later, Trump’s letter had a veiled threat of its own: “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.”
There have been doubts about the summit for days, but the turnaround was still sudden. On Monday, the US released commemorative coins celebrating the summit. On Tuesday, former US President Jimmy Carter said Trump could win a Nobel Peace Prize. Yesterday, in front of the world’s media, North Korea set off explosives that it said had disabled its nuclear test site.
Now the deal is over.
Or is it? Trump repeatedly left the door open for Kim. He wrote that the summit was being cancelled “for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world… Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you.”
How should we feel about this development?
What a waste, say some. Trump was foolish to ever think the summit would go well, but he should have taken the opportunity, however slim, to make the world a much safer place. Cancelling the meeting is a childish move by someone who cannot be trusted to keep his word on anything — and it leaves America more alone than ever.
It was a smart move, say others. During negotiations, North Korea has returned three US prisoners, talked of peace with the South Korean president, and blown up its nuclear test site. It was never going to give up its weapons completely. Trump got what he wanted and walked away at the right time.
- Was Trump right to cancel the summit with North Korea?
- Will the world ever give up its nuclear weapons?
- Write down five pieces of your own advice inspired by Trump’s book title, The Art of the Deal.
- Imagine you are the leader of your country. Write your own letter to Kim Jong-un explaining what you think about its nuclear weapons programme.
Some People Say...
“The worst of times often create the best opportunities to make good deals.”President Donald Trump, The Art of the Deal
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- The summit had been scheduled to take place in Singapore on June 12. However, all week the US and North Korea had both been hinting that they might pull out. After cancelling the meeting, Trump told reporters that the South Korean, Japanese and US military were “ready” if North Korea took any “foolish or reckless” actions.
- What do we not know?
- Whether the summit might be rescheduled. Although it is unlikely that the June 12 meeting will go ahead, Trump has said he is willing to try again. We also do not know if an agreement between America and North Korea was ever possible; the US had demanded that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons before any deal is made, but North Korea said it would refuse. It is not clear how Trump would have solved this problem.
- The book was written with help from Tony Schwartz, who has since spoken out against Trump in the media. Schwartz spent 18 months getting to know Trump in the 1980s and describes writing the book as putting “lipstick on a pig”.
- The country’s former dictator, Gaddafi, gave up its nuclear programme in 2003 in exchange for easing of sanctions. He was killed by US and NATO-backed rebels during the Arab Spring.
- With 6,550, the US has the second-highest number of nuclear warheads in the world. Only Russia has more, with 7,010, according to the Arms Control Association.
- It is fairly standard for the US military to issue challenge coins for certain events — but not usually before they take place.
- Jimmy Carter
- The 39th president of the United States, from 1977 to 1981. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.
- Nuclear test site
- There have been six nuclear tests at the site since 2006. Although journalists witnessed the explosions yesterday, no independent experts were allowed to confirm that it was fully disabled.