As Trump-Kim talking date closes in, U.S. agents give stink eye to nuclear test site demolition

Gilalo Com / Flickr Donald Trump Calls Kim Jong Un...
Gilalo Com / Flickr

Assuming that Pr*sident Trump doesn’t opt into his Reality TV persona and call off talks with North Korea again, and assuming some third nation can be arm-twisted into paying for the hotel rooms of Kim Jong-un and his entourage, negotiators from Washington and Pyongyang will sit down in Singapore June 12 as originally scheduled to see if agreement can be had regarding “denuclearizing” the Korean peninsula.

The king-of-the-deal-image Trump cultivates publicly for himself conceals a giveaway, rollover approach to negotiations, so how things go with Kim across the table is anybody’s guess.

Both Trump and Kim have moved away from the tit-for-tat, insult-laden blasts of a few months ago, and the White House made clear Friday that the negotiating process is going to be one that doesn’t include North Korea’s surrendering its nuclear weapons and dismantling its facilities for building them after just one summit. That certainly wasn’t what the art-of-the-deal-maker was spouting a couple weeks ago. Nick Wadhams and Sharon Cho at Bloomberg write:

Trump’s talk of an open-ended process is a jarring shift from the speedy outcome that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other officials demanded when the summit was in limbo. Trump didn’t say what he hopes to get out of the summit, nor did he talk about what the U.S. was prepared to give up, aside from musing about the possibility of a declaration ending the Korean War for good.

That’s even as Defense Secretary James Mattis told a security forum in Singapore on Saturday the U.S.’s objective remained the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.”

Meanwhile, CNN reported last night that Western intelligence sources now say last month’s much-ballyhooed North Korean “goodwill gesture” of blowing up a mountain tunnel previously used for the nation’s underground nuclear tests may have been a charade that caused only superficial damage to the site. That’s in sharp contrast with the view of many Western nuclear scientists who said when the demolition was announced that it wasn’t a big deal because the last nuclear test had collapsed the tunnel and it couldn’t be used anyway.

Contradictory stories of this kind are what we can expect for however long it takes for the Trump regime and the Kim regime to come to agreement or to decide they cannot do so. The best advice going forward is to be stubbornly cautious about any announcements that great progress is being made, or about what unnamed intelligence agents are most recently claiming, or really, about anything other than the negotiators’ wardrobes. And to keep in mind that both sides pay people to create an informational fog. Piercing that fog without succumbing to confirmation bias is no easy matter.

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