Editor’s Note: Looking for more opinions on where we go after the Hanoi summit? Check out all 80 expert takes on where U.S-North Korea relations go next here.
The Hanoi no-deal walkaway accords us a brief respite from submerging deeper into the consuming quicksand of negotiations with North Korea. Determining whether the walk off denotes a failed summit or a “win” for either side and tallying the reasons for the chief negotiators’ abrupt decision to call off a deal were helpful as post–incident analysis. In the meantime, reality continues to confront us, staring hard-nosed into our minds and conscience that the North Korean regime, attuned only to its own cadence and beat, remains unchecked in upgrading its nuclear hardware and software with little punitive enforcement from the international community.
Minutes before his meeting with President Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un answered to the international press, “If I didn’t have the will [to denuclearize], I wouldn’t be here right now.” That will, however, proved conditional with a short expiry time.
By some accounts, the no-deal Hanoi summit may have dealt a small shock to Kim’s ego. With so much build-up toward the likelihood of Washington granting a step toward a peace mechanism in the lead-up to the Vietnam summit, what else would Kim have expected but a give-and-take exchange skewed largely in his regime’s favor?
Though unsettling at first, small shocks— setbacks—reorient, refuel, and renew the drive to come back with even greater determination. The North Korean regime has a proven track record of resiliency. Kim, with nukes and missiles in tow, will be made all the wiser and more resolute thanks to the lessons learned from Hanoi. Proceed with caution in dealing with the comeback kid with the funny haircut.
Soo Kim is a former CIA North Korea analyst and Opinion Contributor for The Hill. She was a 2015 National Security Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. You can follow her on Twitter at @mllesookim.