Is North Korea withdrawing from the nuclear talks?

No, they are negotiating, read their latest statement, it is full of “ifs.”  If you are negotiating, especially in a fraught situation, often you will feel the need to walk away from the talks, or at least threaten to do so.  (Of course, many people suggest Obama should have done more of this leading up to the Iran deal.)  And Kim doesn’t want to enter the talks with Trump having had an unbroken string of PR successes.

Now, there is a perfectly reasonable argument for being pessimistic about the North Korean nuclear talks, namely that some of the demands of the two sides may prove incompatible.  The good news, if you would call it that, is that we are not actually calling for complete denuclearization of North Korea, though nonetheless we may require more than they are willing to cede.  Most of all, we want them to start acting like a normal evil government, rather than like a crazy evil government.  Maybe that is too hard for Kim to pull off and still feel stable.

Still, the new news isn’t really bad news at all.  It is how an evil tyrannical government negotiates.  It is also how some non-evil tyrannical governments negotiate as well, not to mention non-evil, non-tyrannical governments too.


I would tolerate them having some nuclear weapons as deterrence if it brought about a peace treaty and a conventional military de-escalation in the North (i.e. getting rid of all the artillery in range to reduce Seoul to ruins in the case of a conflict).

You mean like the most destructive nuke weapon capacity in the world has reduced the US military threat to less than that of Switzerland?

Okay, we get Cowen's point: Kim and Trump deserve each other.

Perhaps Kim has seen what has happened to Iran and doubts the wisdom of trusting Trump?

Or perhaps it's the other way around? A Republican can and will scrap a deal made by a Democrat; little chance of a Democrat scrapping a deal made by a Republican.

The point being of course that a deal with Trump is safe (nobody to the right of him to scrap it), and a deal with not-Trump is not safe. Something something Nixon China.

"little chance of a Democrat scrapping a deal made by a Republican."

I think you'd be foolish to assume that a Democratic wouldn't scrap a non-binding deal made by a Republican President.

You have to look no further than Obama scrapping Bush's missile defense plans with Poland & the Czech Republic.

Exactly. This anti-Trump hysteria clouds every single conversation you try to have nowadays. It is very hard (impossible?) to criticize Trump here. At least based on where we are now.

It's easy to criticize Trump actually. He's being praised for simply abandoning the entire US negotiating position. Any president could have made a deal to let them keep the nukes they have, enrichment capacity, and nothing on human rights. Write them a big aid check on top of it too.

The credit Trump deserves is exposing the fact that the hawks on the right don't actually care about any of this stuff.

First of all, you (or anyone else for that matter) don't even know what the agreement will be. Second, this "position" you mentioned above has been the US position all along. Bush tried it, Obama tried it, and it just did not go anywhere. So again, drop the baby talk and look at it like an adult. We need to at least give people a chance to do something different until we know it is the same.

Just meeting with Kim in person with no preconditions or requirements on North Korea's side was a massive agreement. No previous president was willing to do that, so obviously Trump is getting the chance do do something different. Where is the apology tour and traitor talk from the Right? Where is the stupid axis of evil talk?

His administration is actively talking down what 'denuclearization' means and has put aid and withdrawing our troops as options on the table.

What is it about ditching your friends, taking your ball, and going home that is adult? When you write your enemies a check on top of it all?

Are you criticizing the right for abandoning something that didn't work?

The idea that Trump will "legitimize" NK means what exactly? This non-real asset might have mattered to past presidents. But Trump is operating with far fewer constraints than past presidents; he doesn't seem to care.

The "entire US negotiating position" has been a complete and total failure as relates to North Korea. The correct but difficult decision is to yes abandon it, and harder still find and implement a better approach.

It all depends on the kind of deal of course.

The deal you cited was not a "peace deal" or a "disarmament deal", it was a defense deal. State vs. DoD. You know the drill.

To give an example, in Israel it is much the same thing. The Right would rail against Left overtures of "land for peace"; then when the Menachem Begin or Ariel Sharon did just that, the Left couldn't complain. As I said: Nixon, China.

In the end, I'm suggesting that what Trump is trying might actually be a coherent strategy (shocking, I know) and not just random bluster (as too many people I know seem to think) - far from 'screwing it up', scrapping the Iran deal could have easily been timed just for the upcoming talks: "see, you have to give us a better deal than those guys if you want it to last - and moreover, my hard-line cred makes negotiating with me the safest option you have".

"Perhaps Kim has seen what has happened to Iran and doubts the wisdom of trusting Trump?"

If a deal with NK is actually reached, don't you think Trump will submit it to the Senate for ratification?

Before or after the U.S. has an ambassador to South Korea? Harris has yet to be confirmed, it appears. And one hopes that the paperwork is handled without any embarrassing errors, as Harris was slated to be the ambassador to Australia just a couple of months ago.

"Before or after the U.S. has an ambassador to South Korea? "

Is something wrong with our telephone and e-mail communications?

Its not 1700 anymore. No three week trip by boat.

Ambassadors make PR speeches and supervise consular services.

'No, they are negotiating'

And they don't care if Trump meets with them or not.

Advantage, North Korea.

Especially as they get a global PR benefit for being reasonable, by abandoning a worthless nuclear testing facility without asking for anything in return.

And Kim has already achieved one of the major North Korean political goals since the end of the Korean War - to be treated as an equal by the president of the U.S. Actually meeting the president at this point is no longer necessary to show America bowing to North Korea's glorious leader - or whatever overwrought formulation the North Koreans will use in their propaganda, both internal and external.

And besides, one can assume that Kim's government will be receiving ZTE's invitation to resume their business relationship any time now, assuming the North Koreans aren't the ones calling first.

I've always thought that this argument about "we should not meet with them because that gives them legitimacy" was absurd. They don't need legitimacy for anything. NK cares about 2 things: What China can do for them and how that compares to what other countries can do against them. It's been like that since the 50s. They definitely care about Trump, just like they care about Xi. They are the two sides of the same coin for NK. There's definitely movement on both sides, and that is what is causing the different actions by NK.

Sure, but it was also a goal of the North Korean ruling dynasty since the end of the Korean War. Basically, after decades of breaking deals and achieving viable nuclear weapons, the ruling family of North Korea has achieved its goal. Why we simply gave it to them for free is the question, not whether it matters much to the U.S. per se.

And they do not need to meet the president of the U.S. - his willingness is more than sufficient in North Korean eyes.

But I do agree that the point is a relic from the time when the U.N. and North Korea (plus at the time non-U.N. member the PRC) were actually in a war to determine whether Korea would be a communist or democratic polity, in roughly similar fashion to the split in Germany.

They want to be seen meeting with the US president but don't need to meet.

Your argument is incoherent.

"They want to be seen meeting with the US president but don't need to meet.

Your argument is incoherent."

Well, one possibility would be for Donald Trump to fly to Singapore, and for a message to be publicly presented: "The Dear Leader is too busy with more important matters. Call again later."

I don't buy the "legitimacy" argument either. It is not even an argument; more like a sentence uttered sufficiently many times to the public that it now sounds like a fact.

What is this legitimacy? Why does meeting confer legitimacy? What can one do with this legitimacy, explicitly? How do the mechanics of legitimacy work?

I'd be interested and grateful if someone attempts to make the best possible case for "legitimacy" or can point to an article/other document.

Do the readers of this blog really need to have the obvious explained to them?

See rayward and prior above.

Of course, no debate or explanation is possible with those two. Imagine how tedious it would be to meet either of them in person.

They might be more reasonable in real life since they seem like the types who would induce others to consider punching them in the face or otherwise harming such idiots in person. Of course, much more likely they wouldn't be invited for serious conversations by normal people.

I'm now quite curious to see Tyler's list of non-evil tyrannical governments...

China comes to mind, depending on how ones looks at Prof. Cowen's writing about his more recent travels there.

For example, here he is on Chinese censorship - 'Go back to the banned status of Bloomberg View in China, which is also a ban on some of my writings. (My educational videos are also blocked because they are on YouTube.) Does that mean I should stop having my books translated into Chinese, or that I should refuse to speak at Chinese universities, on the grounds that they do not present all of my written product? No, hardly anyone behaves that way, nor should they. I prefer to try to communicate with the Chinese -- including listening to and learning from them -- as much as I plausibly can.'

Whether authoritarian is tyrannical is an open question, of course.

Tyler makes remarks supportive of Chinese people, and you are confusing that with support for the Chinese government.

The background point which too few commenters have noted is why did North Korea suddenly become interested in negotiating about a test ban? The only explanation that makes sense is that their most recent and biggest nuclear test last fall destroyed their nuclear testing facility. They cannot do any nuclear testing until they build a new one.

So in the meantime, why not extract some concessions from the West especially from a feckless Nobel-hungry president.

Yes. A happy accident. God ppl are stupid.

The mountain above North Korea's main nuclear test site has likely collapsed. That collapse has likely rendered the site unsafe for further testing.

This is a stupid, repeatedly debunked meme. It has nothing to do with the actual evidence or the basic setup of how North Korea's underground testing tunnels even work.

'It has nothing to do with the actual evidence'

Depends on what you mean by actual evidence. As noted here, the Chinese have more than one study concerning the state of the nuclear testing facility - 'Research by Chinese geologists suggests that the mountain above North Korea’s main nuclear test site has likely collapsed, rendering it unsafe for further testing and requiring that it be monitored for any leaking radiation.

The findings by the scientists at the University of Science and Technology of China may shed new light on North Korean President Kim Jong Un’s announcement that his country was ceasing its testing program ahead of planned summit meetings with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The results also support some of the findings of an earlier study by another group of Chinese researchers that was published last month by the journal Geophysical Research Letters.'

You are welcome to include links to any research refuting those papers, of course. Here is a link to one of the published papers -

I've written this before, and I'll probably write it again.

Economists should be studying ways to replace evil tyrannical governments with less-evil, less-tyrannical governments, with the least collateral damage possible.

For example, most evil tyrannical governments rely on the military to keep them in power. What is the best way to separate the military from the evil tyrants? For example, can a military be "bought"? If so, how much money would it take, and what would be the best breakdown for spending (e.g., generals getting a large chunk, or generals getting virtually nothing)?

This is important...get to work, economists! :-)

Back in the Cold War 1980s a Rand-type study, unclassified, suggested the USA pay the USSR for Poland, which was making noise about leaving the Warsaw Pact. I think the figure quoted was $100B for the leaders in the USSR and Poland, which back then was a lot of money.

"Back in the Cold War 1980s a Rand-type study, unclassified, suggested the USA pay the USSR for Poland, which was making noise about leaving the Warsaw Pact. I think the figure quoted was $100B for the leaders in the USSR and Poland,..."

That's approaching the type of thing I'm talking about. Economists could figure out who should be paid, and what amount.

For instance, take our invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam Hussein. I think the vast majority of people in the U.S. and around the world would agree that we spent a vast amount of money, and the outcome was less than desired.

So economists could figure should the the U.S. (and hopefully other countries) have gotten rid of Saddam Hussein (and his sons) and put in place something that was better than what happened, for the least amount of money (i.e. for the highest benefit-to-cost ratio)?

I don't want to eliminate brainstorming by proposing possible solutions, right up front, but for example,

1) Does it make sense to pay Iraqi generals to overthrow Saddam and sons?

2) Or no generals, but only colonels and below?

3) Should we be paying the police in Iraq after the overthrow?

4) What about oil money? Wouldn't it have made sense to set up a fund that directly paid each citizen oil revenues?

Starting from a "Monday morning quarterback" situation like that, economists could look at how best to get rid of all of the very worst tyrannies in the world...the ones ranked at the very bottom of freedom rankings, like Venezuela, Libya, Algeria, etc. :

Cato Institute Human Freedom Index

Regime change to install puppet governments? Hmm...I never thought of "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" as prescriptive.

Getting rid of Saddam Hussein was never the problem. That was accomplished very easily. The problem is what comes next. It doesn't seem like there is much space for creative solutions there. Either you take over the country (morally unacceptable to modern Western democracies, and even if you did it, it comes with huge problems anyway) or you allow self rule (in which case you don't get to impose your bright ideas).

I think non-regime-change solutions may have more low-hanging fruit.
Should we treat Kim Jong Un as a normal world leader even if he doesn't deserve it? That feels wrong, and it feels unjust to all of the North Koreans who are imprisoned and enslaved. Yet, it might be better for the people of North Korea (and us as well).

It worked pretty well for China. The Chinese government is still pretty bad, but it's hard to imagine that the world and the Chinese people are not better off with normalized relations between the west and China. Of course, some pretty strong internal reforming forces within China were a part of this, so it may not be replicable everywhere.

Who (please name names) is this post responding to?

Line up that Nobel Peace Prize already! Lol!

What with Mulp “mulping” about America, and Prior repeating Tyler’s points, posting the most useless and irrelevant post so far takes some doing, but Benny you’ve risen to the challenge admirably.

Repeating Prof. Cowen's points? OK, let me be clear what I was trying to say without being too explicit - Trump is a chump, and is being played by the North Koreans like the total buffoon he is.

The North Koreans achieved a family dynasty goal by having an American president treat them as equals, giving up a worthless nuclear test facility costs them nothing, and as ZTE demonstrates, breaking American sanctions doesn't matter if the Chinese are in play to protect their economic interests.

This is not about negotiating, this about Kim ensuring that he makes a fool of the Americans, further ensuring his continued grip on power, while buying time to further increase his nuclear arsenal, blaming America for making him do it (just wait until Bolton starts to bark).

If that is what Prof. Cowen was saying, well, talk about a rare case of agreement then.

"Repeating Prof. Cowen's points? OK, let me be clear what I was trying to say without being too explicit - Trump is a chump, and is being played by the North Koreans like the total buffoon he is."

Possibly. But if you admit that the surely you'd have to agree that Obama was played by the Iranians "like the total buffoon" he was.

Why? The Iranians were remaining essentially bound by the terms of the deal they signed - the U.S. being only one of the parties involved, after all. 'Iran has remained within the main limits on its nuclear activity set by its 2015 deal with six world powers, the U.N. atomic watchdog said in its first report since U.S. President Donald Trump decertified Iranian compliance with the terms.'

Why people think that this was Obama alone continues to be mystifying, as if the Russians have no care about a nuclear armed Islamic Republic as a neighbor, for example. A point actually noted at the end of that article, by the way - 'IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told Reuters in September he would welcome clarification from the powers on how the agency should monitor Iran’s implementation of the so-called Section T of the nuclear pact that deals with certain technologies that could be used to develop an atom bomb.

Russia had been critical of the agency’s monitoring of Section T provisions, but Monday’s report said the IAEA had verified Iran’s commitment to the section. '

And what decades long goal did the Iranians achieve? Nobody ever disputed that the seized assets were Iranian property, for example, whereas until the Trump administration, the U.S. had been adamant since the end of the Korean War that North Korea was not treated as an equal partner to the U.S.

Whether one agrees with the Iran deal's value, the monitoring being conducted showed that the terms were not being violated. In terms of the North Koreans, they have already achieved one of the family dynasty's most cherished goals, at a cost of essentially nothing. Whether that is important to you or me is another question, of course. But for the North Korean leadership, apparently, this is a reward for having a nuclear weapons program in the first place, and a clear demonstration of their power, at least in their own eyes.

And we gave it to them as a gift, it seems. The North Koreans have already shown that a U.S. president is finally willing to treat them as equals - why the North Koreans need to do anything further, such as actually meet the president, seems harder to explain.

It seems as if the North Koreans won't be meeting the South Koreans today anyways. And why should they? - after all, the North Koreans have demands they expect to be met. 'North Korea has cancelled Wednesday's high-level talks with South Korea because of anger over its joint military exercises with the US.

The North's official KCNA news agency said the exercises were a "provocation" and a rehearsal for an invasion.

It also warned the US over the fate of the historic summit between Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump that is scheduled for 12 June in Singapore.'

"Why? The Iranians were remaining essentially bound by the terms of the deal they signed "

The chief criticism with the deal is that the terms are too lax for Iran.

Strangely, the main criticism from one of the signatories was that the terms were far too harsh.

And that Trump has gotten further with NK than any of Obama, Bush or Clinton ever did.

Define further. Because as of today, Trump has given them something no U.S. president has since the end of the Cold War, while the North Koreans have not done a single thing to change their behavior.

The meeting and handshake with SK leader Moon was a pretty big (if symbolic) change in behavior. I'm pretty anti-Trump but credit where it's due, at least so far he's making good things happen. We'll see if it sticks and we end up in a better place.

We never had such dire problem s when we had running things real-statesmen like Bushes, Clinton, Obama, Chamberlain, Quisling, et al.

I'm old enough to remember your parents saying/writing similar muck concerning Reagan, the USSR, Gorbachev, Gaddafi, Grenada, etc.

If Kim nuked LA, it could make Trump look bad and result in a population explosion in Hell. Look on the bright side.

'I'm old enough to remember your parents saying/writing similar muck concerning Reagan, the USSR, Gorbachev, Gaddafi, Grenada, etc. '

I doubt it - first, both of my parents worked for three letter agencies (one parent at an agency that did not officially exist until 1975), and second, every single event you mention occurred after my being old enough to vote.

How so? Last I checked, Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush 1, and Reagan were all offered meetings. All declined, on the theory that NK was not offering a suitable trade. It might yet be that Trump gets more than his predecessors. It's a relatively easy thing to measure; he would just need to achieve more than was achieved by the Agreed Framework, under Clinton. But at present what he has achieved is nothing, unless you count closure of a collapsed testing facility and a moratorium on ICBM tests. That's not nothing, but it's also not "further" than closure of a reactor facility, which Clinton briefly achieved.

Oh noes! Did I hurt the widdle Conservative's fee-fees? And that Nobel Prize was going so well!

Not sure what this adds to the discussion...

Let us make no bones. Nothing but a full-scale nuclear attack against key civilian and military targets in North Korea, Red China and Japan will stop the totalitarian threat. China-backed North Korea is one screwdriver's turn from acquisiton of America mailnland-striking nuclear capabilities. The time to act is now. Anything else will be a nuclear Munich.

Based on the US being destroyed by previous nuke atfacks from the USSR, China, India, Pakistan,....

No one seems to care any more about the Saudi funded Pakistani nukes which have been the end game for any war between Pakistan and India, with Pakistan being an actual state sponsor of terrorism, e.g., the terrorist attacks in India backed by the Pakistani military, CIA equivalent. Pakistan hosted Saudi Taliban schools, spreading radical Sunni ideology.

Saudi Arabia will get nukes quickly by calling in their chits with Pakistan. And North Korea and Pakkistan nuke developments are linked.

It is different. Pakistan is America's ally. So is Israel. America helped it to butcher thousands of Indians and Bangladeshi. America invented Wahhabist terrorism as a weapon against the Soviet Union and its allies. The Soviet Union was a reliable country. It was a dictatorship, but it was not seeking world domination. Japan and Red China seek little else. Allowing a Chinese vassal to acquire American mainlad-hitting nuclear caoabilities will be a mistake that will change history forever.

Japan is seeking world domination???

Japan is ruled by anti-Western racists.
The Japanese are trained to hate Westerners. When I was very, very young, one of the first sites I found on the then-young
Internet was an English-language site created by Japanese children as homework. There, they haranged and haranged about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, blaming the Allies. No mentions whatsoever about death marchs, alliance with Hitler, totalitarism, comfort women, a colonial Empire in Asia, terrorist attacks in Brazil, etc. I have met lots of Japanese people in Brazil. None ever mentioned their crimes. Also, the Japanese regime never apologized sincerily for its crimes against mankind. Japan's goal is conquering the world and subjecting it to its Emperor-God. A famous Japanese song says,
"If I go away to the sea,
I shall be a corpse washed up.
If I go away to the mountain,
I shall be a corpse in the grass
But if I die for the Emperor,
It will not be a regret." (Source:

"Pakistan is America's ally"

Yep, how else can the war profiteers profit without Pakistan killing Americans and ensuring Afghanistan remains at war, killing Americans!

Plus kill American Jews in India....

With allies like Pakistan, and the Saudis, the only reason for Iran is to have a scapegoat to blame for Saudis and Pakistanis killing Americans, plus expending multi million dollar cruise missles.

"Let us make no bones. Nothing but a full-scale nuclear attack against key civilian and military targets in North Korea, Red China and Japan will stop the totalitarian threat."

So when is Brazil going to develop the nuclear weapons to pull this off?

Brazil was famously a screwdriver's turn from getting nuclear weapons. However, to contribute to world peace, Brazil became the first country ever to give up developing nuclear weapons. One must remember that Brazilian senator Ruy Barbosa told famous French Nobel Prize laureate Anatole France that Brazil is for world peace.

There ain’t no such thing as a “non-evil government”.

(Sorry, I could not resist)

A Trump hotel in Pyongyang would grease the gears.

Michael Cohen probably has some free time on his hands, and he does know his way around real estate deals involving the Trump Organization.

>A Trump hotel in Pyongyang would grease the gears.

Ha! No kidding!

And don't forget filling the DMZ with golf courses!

Honestly, a newly capitalist and democratic North Korea, funded by Trump Industries, would be the most fitting and hilarious thing ever.

Rename it the DPRT.

The perfect building is already available:

Asians will not say "no" in most cases. Instead they simply refuse to say "yes".

While westerners are not the opposite, they will object in some fashion in most cases, but Trump will actively say no to things he does not like, though not always when face to face.

Bolton, on the other hand, loves to say "no" with extreme prejudice, and he demands "yes" or he attacks.

My guess is the US has laid out demands without waiting for "yes", and assumed a lack of "no" means agreement.

If Trump asks "What do you want to get agreement?" the answers will be so unacceptable Trump will be extremely impolite and shout "No" as he storms out of the room.

I enjoyed this recent article about Un:

Let's put to bed the myth of crazy Kim Jong Un. He seems to understand how the world operates better than do any of Merkel May or Trudeau (at least publicly). I am really hoping for a good outcome from these talks.


“The real threat to Kim comes from within, unless he feeds his people He recounted asking a North Korean official what the regime meant by security. “What he said was a Trump Tower coming to the Taedong River and a McDonald’s and U.S. banks in Pyongyang—then the United States will never attack us,” he said.

There are two things going on in Tyler's comments. One is probably immoral, and one is probably impractical.

The immoral one is to "accept" nuclear regimes in Iran or North Korea which torture, kill, or just starve their citizens.

The impractical one is to think that this "acceptance" is binding.

Muammar Gaddafi is poster boy for making a deal with democratically elected leaders of "set A" and then at a later date simply being taken down by democratically elected leaders of "set B."

I mean, maybe anything that gets Iran or North Korea or The Donald to chill is a good thing in the short term, but none of it is the long term. For a long term good you probably need more than tolerance for dictators. You probably need to convince them that the globalization path is good for them. That it's better to be a little less megalomaniacal and a lot richer.

Oh, Cuba!

Cuba is 0/0 in the other comments on this page, but it's the same deal. Do you "accept it" folks? If you aren't "accepting it" when you roll back trade and tourism, what are you doing?

IMO breaking the connections is the opposite of the right course. You want Cuba to recognize the benefits of globalization, and join the community of nations for that reason.

To be clearer, North Korea as a "regional nuclear power" may be the status quo, but endorsing it is pretty much a fake win.

We accomplished what we already have, yay?

The only surprising thing is that people are surprised North Korea is acting like it usually does.

North Korea has always wanted a meeting with the US President. Agreeing to have a meeting was just accepting a North Korean demand while getting nothing in return. It was frankly bizarre that people treated this like some foreign policy coup by Trump - any US president from 1960 on could have gotten a meeting if they wanted it.

North Korea is predictably reacting to Trump acting as if Kim gave him a concession rather than vice versa - since Trump seemed over eager to get the meeting, why not turn the tables and add additional US concessions to having a meeting?

Trump and his fans are both very desperate for a win.

Such evident desperation is what makes exploiting them so easy.

The North Koreans have already achieved their likely main goal, which was to have an American president (any American president since the end of the Korean War) acknowledge them as an equal partner.

It's a great point. Trump is the loser here. He has been for years.

How is Hillary's book tour doing, by the way?

"The President of the United States just pledged "very strong protections" to a brutal #NorthKorean dictator to remain in power as part of any deal. That is a remarkable thing. What, if anything, has Kim pledged the US?"

Bolton was stupid to say this:

"'I think we're looking at the Libya model of 2003, 2004,' to denuclearize North Korea, Bolton told CBS' 'Face the Nation' in late April."

North Korea's response:

"High-ranking officials of the White House and the Department of State including Bolton, White House national security adviser, are letting loose the assertions of so-called Libya mode of nuclear abandonment... It is essentially a manifestation of awfully sinister move to impose on our dignified state the destiny of Libya or Iraq which had been collapsed due to yielding the whole of their countries to big powers."

How many times do you think Kim has watched video of the US Sec. of State laughing about having Gaddafi killed?

No, they are negotiating,

Could be. Could not be.

I make no forecasts or analyses of what is going on or will happen as both Kim and Trump are highly unpredictable. Moon and Xi and some others in the region seem fairly reasonable and working towards some sort of not too unreasonable outcome, but anything can happen.

As ex-president, Jimmy Carter met with Kim Il-Sung, which initiated what became nuclear negotiations. The deal cut by Clinton had some similarities to the Iran deal, although differences as well. DPRK was to shut down its plutonium reactor, which it did, and it joined the NNPT, allowing in IAEA inspectors. US was to give them economic aid, including assistance in setting up civilian nuclear power. The South Koreans were in on the deal, and there was a thaw with joint economic arrangements set up and other loosenings. There were some failures to abide on both sides, with US in particular balking on assisting with civilian nuclear power. A crucial matter is that the deal said nothing about uranium.

Anyway, when W. Bush came in, while Colin Powell wanted to keep things going, Cheney and Rumsfeld convinced Bush to pull out of negotiations and switch to a hard stance, with the goal of achieving regime change in DPRK (something the Trump people claim they want in Iran and hope to achieve by pulling out of the JCPOA). It was then learned that the DPRK was enriching uranium, and this became a reason to pull further out of the deal from the US side, even though it was not part of the deal (shades of missiles in Iran). Eventually DPRK pulled out of the deal and the NNPT, threw out the IAEA, restarted its plutonium reactor, and built its bombs. It may be that the thing that is clearer is that Trump's pullout from the JCPOA may lead to a similar outcome in Iran that Bush achieved in Korea, although if the Europeans can get around US sanctions enough to keep Iran in the deal, maybe not.

But what Kim and Trump are up to and where it is going is impossible to forecast right now.

'although if the Europeans can get around US sanctions enough to keep Iran in the deal, maybe not'

Not to mention the Russians and Chinese. So much reporting in the U.S. tends to ignore that the Iran deal is international, with the U.S. just one player. Who has weakened its hand considerably, as the other major powers determine how to continue pursuing their policies without America being able to influence their actions.

While China and Russia may be more immune, a lot of European companies can be badly hurt by the US sanctions on Iran, which extend to companies operating in the US or getting financing from US banks, or even just using dollars. So in today's WaPo a small article reports that Frances's oil company, Total, which signed a major agreement with Iran, may pull out if they cannot get an exemption from the US sanctions, which will probably not be forthcoming. 90% of their financing is from US banks and 30% of their assets are in the US. The Iran deal certainly does not offset that, and I doubt the French government can do so either. So European governments may want to keep the deal going, but the vulnerable companies may pull out of Iran anyway, which may well lead to Iran pulling out of the deal and restarting its uranium enrichment and its plutonium reactor being built. Where have we heard that before?

This is a four way game, not Trump vs. Kim. Behind the scenes does Trump have deal with China to keep the sanctions on till NK agrees to give up its weapons? China has a stronger incentive to denuclearize the Korean peninsula than the USA does.

There is a lot we do not know. The blog, North Korean Economy Watch, run by Miles Curtis out of George Mason reports that China has already eased some of its sanctions after Kim Jong-Un agreed to make his walk across the DMZ to meet ROK president Moon. China really did tighten its sanctions a lot last year according to this blog, with that some combination of Trump pressure, Chinese anger over the acceleration of DPRK's nuclear weapons program, and accumulated anger over Kim killing anybody in his regime friendly to China, including an uncle and a brother, not to mention not ever going to China to kowtow to Xi, which he has now done twice.

'China has a stronger incentive to denuclearize the Korean peninsula than the USA does.'

Or not - it certainly strengthens the buffer zone between Chinese and American forces in a way that China can plausibly deny.

We know basically very little about North Korean aims and goals, and it is clear they do not consider themselves mere Chinese vassals. But we also do not know that much more about Chinese aims and goals in this instance. After all, it became actively involved in a war with the U.N. the last time American forces approached the border to China.

Can someone explain to me why on Earth NK would denuclearize? They saw that when India and Pakistan obtained nukes, the US quickly normalized relations. They see that nobody cares that Israel has nukes. They see that when the US negotiates denuclearization agreements, the US stabs that partner in the back because we are completely untrustworthy. This happened in Libya where our jihadist proxies killed Qaddafi and then prompty destabilized the Sahel. And we see that with Iran where we ripped up the JCPOA for no reason without a Plan B. On what planet with NK see this pattern and say "Yea I can trust those cowboys."

They're not going to denuclearize, ever. They might stop doing nuclear testing for awhile though -- or more likely, have been forced to stop due to the collapse of their main nuclear testing site. Trump's giving concessions to North Korea for doing something that they were forced to do anyway.

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