In an interview at the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual conference for dissidents and human-rights advocates in the Norwegian capital, Thae offered a possible rationale for Trump’s approach. “Trump still keeps the economic sanctions against Kim,” he said. “On the other hand, he is flattering him so he does not break out of the negotiations.” If North Korea tests nuclear or long-range ballistic missiles, Thae said, “Trump would have justification to use force. Kim knows this, and this is why he won’t do it.”

Coming from Thae, it’s a surprising view. When Thae defected in 2016 with his family, he became a hunted man. The South Korean government provides him with 24-hour protection, even when he travels outside of Seoul. “The world has seen what Kim has done to his half-brother,” said Thae, who was the second-ranking diplomat at his country’s embassy in London. “They can do anything to keep me silent.”