Donald Trump's exit from the Iran nuclear deal sends a disastrous signal to North Korea. A few weeks before their planned talks, Kim Jong Un has every reason to doubt his sincerity. Fabian Kretschmer reports from Seoul.
The current goings-on inside the United States government would be an excellent object lesson in cognitive dissonance for first-term psychology students. Only a few hours after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, Mike Pompeo, his secretary of state, arrived in Pyongyang. His message to the high-ranking officials there: If you give up your nuclear weapons, we will ease our sanctions and not attack you. However, it will come as no surprise to the Kim regime that the US has broken from the Iran agreement. Its distrust of Washington is already very deep.
'Deals have expiration dates'
The exit from the nuclear deal also puts strain on South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who in recent months has pulled out all the stops to revive the fragile peace process on the Korean Peninsula. The president's office in Seoul has drawn a veil of silence over its frustration with Trump's unilateral actions.
US experts are also critical of the president's decision. Antony Blinken, for example, who served as a deputy secretary of state under former President Barack Obama, questioned on Twitter whether Kim would believe US negotiators when Trump "arbitrarily tears up an agreement."
Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, made a similar point, tweeting that Trump's decision "is a stark reminder across the world: Deals are reversible and can have expiration dates, while nuclear weapons can offer lifetime insurance."
'Libya model' doesn't work, either
In the same vein, at the end of April, Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that he aspired to the "Libya model" for North Korean nuclear disarmament. In the early 2000s, the then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi abandoned his nuclear weapons program in response to diplomatic pressure from the West.
What Bolton failed to mention was that the Libyan government was toppled in 2011 with the help of Western airstrikes, and Gadhafi himself was brutally executed by a mob. The events in Libya are one of the main reasons the hard-liners in Pyongyang want to hang on to their nuclear program at all costs — they see it as a form of life insurance.
A novice mistake
From a foreign policy point of view, Washington's sincerity in the upcoming talks with Pyongyang has now been cast in a dubious light. To date, North Korea has indicated that its nuclear disarmament must go hand in hand with a peace treaty with the US. But a recent blunder by Secretary of State Pompeo has raised doubts about the professional expertise the US is bringing to the negotiating table. When Pompeo spoke to reporters on the plane en route to Pyongyang, he referred to North Korea's Kim as "Chairman Un" — clearly unaware that Kim is his surname. A typical novice mistake.