Remember when Moon Jae-in told the world that Kim Jong-un wanted talks without preconditions and that he was totes okay with upcoming military exercises with the US? Yeah, not so much. After those long-planned exercises started today, Pyongyang abruptly canceled a planning meeting with Seoul today, and hinted at the US that the summit was next:
North Korea is threatening to cancel its upcoming summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump over South Korea-U.S.military drills, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported, citing North Korean state media.
North Korea has also canceled high-level talks with South Korea that were scheduled for Wednesday local time over those same drills, according to Yonhap.
The threat about the summit wasn’t quite as explicit as ABC’s report sounds. The Kim regime put a little nuance on it, but it’s not difficult to read between the lines in the statement quoted by Yonhap News:
“This exercise targeting us, which is being carried out across South Korea, is a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula,” the KCNA report said. “The United States will also have to undertake careful deliberations about the fate of the planned North Korea-U.S. summit in light of this provocative military ruckus jointly conducted with the South Korean authorities.”
In other words … nice summit ya got there, Trump. Shame if something happened to it. It’s not a flat-out threat to back out, but everyone understands exactly what it means.
Now this is the North Korea that we’ve come to know. The Kim regime has a long history of making promises offering concessions, only to pull back and demand more concessions for the price of going forward at all. This is the risk that Donald Trump runs in bragging about this summit before it takes place. The more he uses it as proof of his success, the more leverage he gives Kim to squeeze him over it.
This is likely just a jab, a test to see how Trump reacts (and Moon too, for that matter). Kim’s going into this blind, having very little experience in dealing with free-world leaders, and he’ll want to test their mettle before showing up at the summit. I suspect that Xi Jinping won’t be amused if Kim pulls out now, though, and that’s the relationship that matters most to Kim’s survival.
— The Lead CNN (@TheLeadCNN) May 15, 2018
That’s sort of the point, although I doubt that they’re that surprised at this. They had to be expecting some sort of ploy.