Anyone who knows better than to trust North Korea (like Republicans did until it began dangling the prospect of a historic, legacy-saving victory in front of their problematic president) should have been alert to the chance that Kim’s recent peace overtures were insincere all along. After all, he has yet to give up anything particularly dear: Talk is cheap, more American hostages can be acquired eventually, and nuclear-testing sites can be rebuilt.
With nukes on hand, ballistic missiles in development, and thousands of conventional weapons aimed at Seoul, the North Korean leader could conceivably use his deterrent capabilities to string the U.S. and South Korea along for years to come. He knows that an invasion would be tremendously costly to both his adversaries and that even if Trump is crazy enough to consider it, the American military establishment knows those risks and will stay his hand if it can.
Walking up to the brink of a deal, then turning around and walking away, is a familiar strategy for North Korea at this point, and framing the collapse of negotiations as the result of American perfidy would play extremely well to Kim’s captive audience.