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North Korea’s wily manoeuvres

CIA director Mike Pompeo lays the groundwork for Donald Trump’s own much-anticipated summit with North Korea.

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Mike Pompeo: preparing June summit

CIA director Mike Pompeo has travelled to Pyongyang for a secret meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. This shows that the groundwork is being laid for President Donald Trump's own much-anticipated summit in June, says the BBC.

According to Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper, during their meetings Kim indicated a readiness to abandon his nuclear arsenal without insisting on the withdrawal of US troops from the South. Last Saturday, Kim also said he would be halting nuclear tests.

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Unfortunately, these are not "breakthroughs" signalling "peace in our time", says Max Boot in The Washington Post. They show how "skilfully Kim is manoeuvring to preserve his nuclear programme while relaxing international sanctions and dissipating Trump's fire and fury'". Trump has made the more "significant concession" by becoming the first sitting US president to meet the North Korean leader, an act that will legitimise Kim and feed his propaganda machine.

As for denuclearisation, "both sides are talking at cross purposes", says Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian. To the US, it means Pyongyang abandoning its nuclear programme; to North Korea it means the withdrawal of the US nuclear umbrella under which South Korea shelters. The gap between the two may be "impossible to bridge", since Kim regards his nuclear arsenal as key to his survival.

So, "clear-cut failure" is possible, but worse so is the possibility of Trump proclaiming whatever concessions he can extract as a "diplomatic victory". Then Kim would have got what he "craves most", while changing nothing.

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