North Korea wavers over nuclear talks

Kim Jong-un © Getty Images
Kim Jong-un: erratic as ever

“Welcome, President Trump, to the infuriating, indecipherable game of North Korean nuclear diplomacy,” says CNN’s Stephen Collinson. An “unexpected series of threats” has “threatened to nix next month’s planned summit in Singapore between Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un”. Kim lashed out at US-South Korea military drills, cancelled a high-level meeting with South Korean officials, and warned that there was “little point” in the US summit if the White House was going to require its nuclear arsenal to be dismantled “up front”.

North Korea’s wavering is a reminder that “even dictators get cold feet”, says Gerry Mullany in The New York Times. It also reflects a familiar North Korean pattern of “diplomatic outreach” followed by erratic behaviour and, frequently, “outright rejection of peace overtures”. Something similar happened in 2005 and 2009.

It could also be a bluff, says Charlie Campbell on Time. Like his father and grandfather, Kim excels at brinkmanship – “alternating between threats and conciliatory gestures to eke out concessions”. Pyongyang may not wish to appear “too much of a cheap date”. Kim may also be mirroring Trump, who said he would “respectfully leave” talks if he didn’t like the way they were going.

It’s too early to write off the summit, says Michael McGough in the LA Times, but it is a timely reminder that it’s too soon for Trump to boast of “succeeding where his predecessors have failed”. The best response would be for Trump to keep his Twitter silence – “unrealistic” as it may be to hope for some presidential self-control.