Two years after Donald Trump met with dictator Kim Jong Un in an effort to improve relations with North Korea and work toward its denuclearization, the regime says the diplomacy effort has turned into a "dark nightmare."
In a statement Friday, North Korea's foreign minister, Ri Son Gwon, said the country would expand its nuclear weapons program.
"Even a slim ray of optimism for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula has faded away into a dark nightmare," Ri said.He vowed that North Korea would never again "provide the U.S. chief executive with another package to be used for achievements without receiving any returns."
Last year, Trump promised that his relationship with Kim would bring a nuclear deal.
"Anything in this very interesting world is possible, but I believe that Kim Jong Un fully realizes the great economic potential of North Korea, & will do nothing to interfere or end it," he tweeted last May. "He also knows that I am with him & does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!"
That was not the only time he talked up his unique ability to improve relations with North Korea.
Trump added that he looked "forward to the day, which could be soon, when Nuclear Weapons and Sanctions can be removed, and then watching North Korea become one of the most successful nations of the World!"
In September, he told the press, "I was given a lot of things. I was given North Korea, where, as you know, President Obama said, 'That's going to be the hardest problem.' And he said some very tough things about North Korea, that he thought it was going to be a problem. That hasn't turned out to be that kind of a problem."
In December, Trump defended North Korea's testing of short-range missiles as "not a violation" of their 2018 agreement.
"Chairman Kim does not want to disappoint me with a violation of trust, there is far too much for North Korea to gain — the potential as a Country, under Kim Jong Un's leadership, is unlimited. Also, there is far too much to lose," he wrote.
As recently as this April, Trump said that, if not for his leadership, the United States would be at war with Kim.
"Look, if I wasn't elected, you would, right now, be at war with North Korea. Okay? I'll tell you, for your people that don't understand the world and they don't understand how life works: If I wasn't elected, you would, right now — maybe the war would be over, hopefully with a victory," he told reporters.
Nuclear proliferation experts have said peace is unlikely as long as Kim remains in power.
"Despite the seeming convergence of political interests between Kim, Moon, and Trump, a fundamental remaking of the Korean Peninsula can happen only if Kim Jong Un makes a strategic decision to save North Korea by dismantling the Kim dynasty," Chung Min Lee, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Asia Program, wrote last November. "So long as he remains in power, however, Kim will never make that choice."
Former National Security Council member Jeff McCausland wrote last March, "One of Trump's biggest mistakes was his assumption that Kim needs the U.S. to dramatically improve its economic situation, and thus the nukes for sanctions trade makes sense. This is not accurate. An improved economy is not an ends for Kim, but rather a means."
Instead, he explained, Kim's "primary goal is to maintain his iron-clad control over the regime."
Trump's relationship with Kim has long been fraught with tension and back-and-forth insults. Trump mocked Barack Obama for not being tough enough with "the man child" in 2013 and derided Kim as "rocket man" in 2017. Kim called Trump a "dotard."
In early 2018, the two threatened each other with nuclear war: After Kim warned that he had a "nuclear button" on his desk, Trump tweeted "I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"
Later that year, Trump appeared to soften, exchanging letters with Kim and holding in-person meetings. Despite the two signing a document at their June 2018 Singapore summit vaguely promising "to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" and to advance a new bilateral relationship based on "peace and prosperity," little changed.
Trump's promised peace deal never materialized and, by December 2019, North Korea was back to threatening to send the United States an ominous "Christmas gift." Trump downplayed the threat, saying the present could also be "a beautiful vase."
Kim announced days later that he would end a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons tests and that the world would see a new strategic weapon "in the near future."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.