Former White House National Security Adviser John Bolton told a group of bankers in Miami two weeks ago that his former boss President Trump “believes his personal chemistry with foreign leaders, including authoritarians like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, means that the U.S. relationship with those countries is a positive one,” Axios reported last week. If that’s the case, America’s relationship with North Korea is … complicated.
Kim has set a year-end deadline for a breakthrough in the U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks, and Trump tweeted Sunday that Kim “should act quickly, get the deal done.” U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday that the U.S. had indefinitely scrapped joint military exercises with South Korea as an “act of goodwill” toward Pyongyang to create space for diplomacy.
On Monday, North Korean Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan poured cold water on the Trump administration’s outreach. “The U.S. only seeks to earn time, pretending it has made progress” with North Korea, he said. “We are no longer interested in such talks that bring nothing to us. As we have got nothing in return, we will no longer gift the U.S. president with something he can boast of.”
North Korea has been ramping up its missile tests and publicizing its military drills. It’s not clear what Kim is willing to put on the table, but along with suspending the joint military exercises with Seoul, Trump has asked Tokyo to pay four times as much to host U.S. troops in Japan and demanded that South Korea pay nearly five times as much, Foreign Policy and Reuters report. Bolton delivered the news in July.
“This kind of demand, not only the exorbitant number, but the way it is being done, could trigger anti-Americanism” in close allies, Bruce Klingner at the Heritage Foundation tells Foreign Policy. “If you weaken alliances, and potentially decrease deterrence and U.S. troop presence, that benefits North Korea, China, and Russia who see the potential for reduced U.S. influence and support for our allies.”