Trump and Kim battled subordinates ahead of spike in tensions

In April, Kim demoted his point man for the nuclear talks, Kim Yong Chol, rebuking a prominent hard-liner and former spy chief who exasperated U.S. negotiators with his stubborn demands and aloof demeanor, two State Department officials said.

Trump also has battled with his top advisers to preserve a positive atmosphere for a deal. On Tuesday, Trump told South Korea’s president in a phone call that he supports aid for North Korea to ease food shortages, despite the concerns of some U.S. officials that it might ease internal pressure on the regime. In March, he ruled out future sanctions against North Korea in a meeting with Bolton and reacted angrily after learning that previous sanctions were imposed without his approval, U.S. officials said.

“What’s really striking is how in both systems, the bureaucracies aren’t always moving in the same direction as the leaders are signaling,” said Scott Snyder, a Korea expert at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Kim’s decision to fire off missiles after a long hiatus appears to signal impatience with the Trump administration’s hard-nosed negotiating tactics, analysts said.

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