WASHINGTON: The US-North Korea nuclear summit is back in the realms of possibility. The two sides continue to play hot and cold on the proposed meeting between their leaders, but President Trump himself indicated on Friday that they had reengaged in talks after they had broken down over what Pyongyang saw as threatening tone and posture from Washington ahead of the proposed June 12 date in Singapore.
"We're going to see what happens. We're talking to them now," Trump said when asked by reporters outside the White House if the meeting with Kim is still on, a day after he had abruptly scrapped the summit + following a vituperative North Korean statement against vice-president Mike Pence, whom it called a ''political dummy.''
"It was a very nice statement they put out. We'll see what happens," Trump added, referring to a conciliatory North Korean statement expressing a willingness to reenter discussions ''at any time, at any format," after the US President announced shelving of the summit.
The president also suggested that a summit could still occur on June 12, as previously scheduled. "It could even be the twelfth," he said.
Earlier, Trump tweeted on Friday morning that North Korea’s willingness to continue engaging was ''very good news,'' while characterizing its statement as ''warm and productive.''
So is the summit on again? No one knows, including probably Trump himself, considering that the volatile President is practicing diplomacy-on-the-fly with an equally temperamental North Korean leader. The US President has publicly said several times now that the summit may or may not happen and he is fine with it either way, leaving it to North Korea to play ball.
North Korea in turn has suggested the onus is on Washington to offer the kind of guarantees it is seeking, without publicly disclosing what they are beyond implying it is concerned about the personal safety of its leader Kim Jong-un.
Comparisons and references from Washington to the ''Libya model,'' under which Libya gave up its nuclear program but which resulted in the public lynching of its leader Moammar Gaddafi, enraged North Korea, while let loose a volley of invective on US officials, including National Security Advisor John Bolton and vice-president Mike Pence, who spoke of the Libya model.
Trump too has warned that Kim could face a bloody end if he does not give up his nuclear weapons program, but he has also publicly committed to Kim’s safety and security if he does.
In fact, he has gone further than any other President is personally assuring continuance in office of a man US intelligence agencies have described as a ruthless dictator who has starved and exterminated his own people to enrich himself.
All this is playing out in public, by the hour, as Trump practices diplomacy on the fly of the kind unprecedented in US history even as he is embroiled in a turbulent domestic political spat against Democrats, liberals, and the mainstream media unused to such bare-knuckle and in-your-face politics.
Even his own aides are having to frequently revise their lines and entire scripts as the mercurial President changes his mind in the blink of an eye.
For instance, after Bolton spoke of North Korea having to follow the Libya model, Trump publicly overrode him saying there won’t be a Libya model if Kim gave up his nuclear weapons, while virtually offering a life-time support for his family room and pledging to make the country ''very rich
In a country and in a system that practices exquisite diplomatic choreography where everyone reads from the same page, such off-the-cuff pledges are unprecedented in nature, particularly since the US Congress has a big say in foreign policy. Trump’s mercurial approach has been shredded by many lawmakers and the liberal commentariat, but his response to it was typical.
'Democrats are so obviously rooting against us in our negotiations with North Korea. Just like they are coming to the defense of MS 13 thugs, saying that they are individuals & must be nurtured, or asking to end your big Tax Cuts & raise your taxes instead. Dems have lost touch!'' he tweeted on Friday.