Pompeo: "We were rockin'" toward the summit -- but got radio silence from Kim

Just how serious were the two leaders going into the US-North Korea summit? According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump planned on a full effort in his meeting with Kim Jong-un, right up to the moment Trump pulled the plug on the effort. “We were rocking in prep” for the meeting, Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee shortly after dropping the news of the summit’s cancellation:

That preparation was distinctly one-sided, Pompeo explained. Ranking member Robert Menendez (D-NJ) wondered how our cancellation would “put us with the rest of the world,” but Pompeo shared that the North Koreans had become unresponsive over the “last many days.” North Korea had agreed to put together a coordination team for preparations, but had never responded to Pompeo’s inquiries about it:

That’s a pretty clear sign that North Korea wanted to drag this out, but we’d already seen signs of that in public. CBS’ analyst notes that the North Koreans appeared increasingly unserious in their open statements. The description in the tweet is a bit misleading; the analyst notes that the pejoratives came “in this case from North Korea to the United States”:

That point wasn’t lost on the SFRC either. Ron Johnson (R-WI) notes that “what’s changed here is Kim Jong-un’s approach to this thing.” Pompeo doesn’t answer that directly, but expresses his disappointment that North Korea didn’t allow for preparation or coordination at the same time that they were ramping up the hostility in their public statements:

With all this in mind, it’s not a stretch to see why Trump didn’t think a summit was likely to do much good. ABC reported yesterday that Pyongyang stood up the US on a key preparation meeting a couple of weeks ago, which could be overlooked if it was a one-off. If they’re not bothering to return phone calls, then it would appear that either they had no intention of showing up in Singapore or that they wanted to see how far they could push Trump before grudgingly cooperating on their own terms.

To answer Menendez’ question, we haven’t lost anything at all. If it was the former, then we haven’t lost anything at all except the egg on our collective face that would have resulted from a no-show. If it was the latter, then the North Koreans just learned an embarrassing lesson of their own about the nature of current US leadership.

If Will Ripley’s report for CNN accurately catches the mood in Pyongyang, then it’s definitely the latter:

It’s hard to credit them with shock, however, if they’re refusing to cooperate on coordination for the summit. This looks like an attempt to push the US into concessions with their usual bluster, and to be fair, that has worked in the past. They just learned a tough lesson.

The question will be whether everyone survives it. There is little doubt that the effort to reach out to the US would have divided people at the top of the regime, and the abrupt cancellation and the embarrassment it causes could very well be fatal to some in the regime. They may have even more incentive to get the summit back on track than just economic improvement. If they’re rolling anti-aircraft artillery into a public square in Pyongyang, be sure to update your Kim regime scorecards accordingly.

Addendum: Trump lamented the “great opportunity” that North Korea squandered, and declared he’d be ready to talk when they’re serious and cooperative: