On Thursday morning, President Trump sent a letter to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un informing him that the U.S. would no longer be participating in their planned June 12 summit in Singapore.
Sadly, I was forced to cancel the Summit Meeting in Singapore with Kim Jong Un. pic.twitter.com/rLwXxBxFKx
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 24, 2018
The president’s letter came after North Korea repeatedly attempted to leverage the upcoming Singapore face-to-face to garner concessions from the Trump administration.
It was a tried and true tactic for Pyongyang. Hostile rhetoric, coupled with endless saber-rattling, always delivered the goods, whether that was in the form of “diplomatic talks” or economic bailouts. From Clinton to Bush to Obama, North Korea’s escalatory tactics worked every time, helping the regime to retain its grip on the country and advance its nuclear weapons program.
At a rally in Indiana earlier this month, the president explained the necessity of knowing when to walk away from a bad deal, citing the Iran nuclear deal as an example of collapsing leverage and capitulating to the other side.
“I think it is going to be a good success,” he said of the North Korea talks. “And if it isn’t, it isn’t … We are not going to be walking into an Iran deal where the negotiator, John Kerry, refused to leave the table.”
President Trump rightly pointed out that the Obama administration was desperate for its Iran deal. The Obama White House was so hungry for a deal that it delivered to the regime billions of dollars in unfrozen assets, dismantled U.S. task forces responsible for targeting Iran’s terrorist proxies, humiliated U.S. troops, and agreed to a framework that could not even do the basic job of verifying Iran’s compliance.
In negotiations over North Korea, the Trump administration took the polar opposite approach. The White House remained steadfast in stating that not a single concession would be made unless we first saw verifiable, permanent changes made by Pyongyang
The White House pulled off a diplomatic masterclass in securing the release of three American hostages, having apparently given away nothing in exchange for their freedom. The United States and its partners also convinced North Korea to reportedly dismantle one of its nuclear sites. Additionally, the Trump administration never let up on its “maximum pressure” strategy on North Korea, leaving punishing sanctions in place while talks occurred. By reminding the North Koreans of their history of deception and insisting on verifiable measures that showed Pyongyang was serious about diplomacy, the Trump White House obtained concessions at zero cost.
After decades of American negotiating failures on North Korea and elsewhere, President Trump has decided that enough is enough. The U.S. has left the table, but now retains increased leverage, should Pyongyang decide that it would like to re-engage in talks.
In stepping back from the Singapore summit, President Trump recognizes what Obama officials said but never truly believed — that no deal is always better than a bad deal.