But the ship of maximum leverage has sailed, argues Cheon Seong Whun, a former South Korean government official who worked in the defense and unification departments. It left, he says, the moment President Trump agreed to meet with Kim Jong Un without any preconditions.

“He lost leverage when he agreed to those talks,” said Cheon, a visiting research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “That was a huge political mistake.”

The theater behind the failed Pompeo visit was “a repeated strategy by the North Koreans,” he said, dubbing it a repeat of US-DPRK talks during the 1990s.

“The North Koreans have a very correct understanding of weak spots in Western politicians who try to make a deal with them. The politicians have to sound optimistic. Pompeo is not prepared to admit he made a mistake,” Cheon told CNN.