And by “political calculation,” North Korea means Mike Pompeo and John Bolton. Pyongyang announced that Kim Jong-un will shortly decide whether he intends to continue his moratorium on missile and nuclear tests after the failure of the Hanoi summit to make progress toward resolving the standoff on the Korean peninsula. Their spokesperson hailed the “mysteriously wonderful” relationship between Kim and Donald Trump, but blamed Pompeo and Bolton and their hostility for screwing up the summit, Arirang News in Seoul explains:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will soon decide whether to continue diplomatic talks and maintain his moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests, a senior North Korean official said Friday, adding that the U.S. threw away a golden opportunity at the recent summit between their leaders.
Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, addressing a meeting of diplomats and foreign media, including The Associated Press, in Pyongyang said the North was deeply disappointed by the failure of the two sides to reach any agreements at the Hanoi summit between Kim and President Donald Trump.
She said Pyongyang now has no intention of compromising or continuing talks unless the United States takes measures that are commensurate to the changes it has taken — such as the 15-month moratorium on launches and tests — and changes its “political calculation.”
They seem keen on emphasizing Kim’s relationship with Trump, but also Kim’s sense of disappointment and frustration:
“On our way back to the homeland, our chairman of the state affairs commission said, ‘For what reason do we have to make this train trip again?’” she said, referring to Kim. …
Choe, who attended the Hanoi summit, said Kim was puzzled by what she called the “eccentric” negotiation position of the United States, but she said the North Korean leader still had a good relationship with Trump.
“Personal relations between the two supreme leaders are still good, and the chemistry is mysteriously wonderful,” she said, while accusing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton of creating an atmosphere of “hostility and mistrust.”
Bolton responded this morning by claiming the accusation was “inaccurate,” but offered no other explanation. He’s in consultation with South Korean nat-sec advisers to calculate the next response, Bolton told reporters, which will likely not include engaging in media warfare. The Washington Post notes that Bolton may have been tipping his hand a little too much in the days after Hanoi anyway:
Many experts see signs of a hardening of the U.S. stance post-Hanoi, with Bolton taking a leading role in the media ruling out any sanctions relief until North Korea fully denuclearizes and even threatening to ramp up sanctions.
U.S. envoy Stephen Biegun has also ruled out doing denuclearization “incrementally,” although he insisted on Monday that diplomacy was “still very much alive.”
John Delury, an expert on East Asia at Seoul’s Yonsei University, said Choe’s comments could be seen as a response to Bolton’s threat to ramp up sanctions and did not mean the door to dialogue was closed.
Maybe not, but it’s not swinging wide open at the moment either. North Korea has always been good at throwing brushback pitches, spiking up hostile statements while looking for diplomatic openings. Bolton has always been a bête noire for Pyongyang, and it’s not the first time they’ve thrown one at Pompeo’s chin either. However, the problem is that North Korea also has conducted lots of missile and nuclear tests too, so it’s too glib to call this a bluff.
They want to take the measure of Trump again, perhaps an indication that they really are confused over what happened in Hanoi. Why call for another summit to offer the same basic deal Trump has offered all along? They must have thought that Trump came there to compromise on complete denuclearization, or at least on incrementalism. The next step should be lower-level contacts for some confidence-building measures rather than signal a big breakthrough with summits.