Reports that North Korea on Thursday blasted away tunnels used for nuclear tests need to be taken with more than a pinch of salt. These tunnels were reportedly blown up in the presence of a team of foreign journalists. Yet, when it comes to the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, it is hard to sift fact from fiction. According to news reports, the nuclear site, located in a remote part of the country near the port city of Wonsan, had three underground tunnels.
The first one to be blasted was used for five tests between 2009 and last year. The other two were blasted a couple of hours later. The regulated presence of handpicked foreign journalists further enforced speculation that the blasts were undertaken to reassure the world before the scheduled June 12 Kim-Trump summit in Singapore that North Korea was sincere in its pledge to wind down its nuclear programmme. Here again, it is difficult to rule out deception in the cat-and-mouse game that Kim has initiated with a very naïve and a very inexperienced Trump.
Already, a question mark had come to hang over the proposed summit, with Trump spoiling his own case with overblown bombast and bullying. His setting the maximalist agenda for Kim as a precondition for the summit had riled the North Korean leader to such an extent that he had threatened to cancel the meeting. In any case, what would be there to talk if Kim concedes full de-nuclearisation ahead of the summit. Trump might boast that he is a great deal-maker, but the truth is that he has made a complete hash of not only the proposed talks with North Korea but of his other foreign policy forays as well. Having blown hot against the nuclear-armed country which is still officially at war with its southern neighbour, Trump misread the tactical reasonableness displayed by Kim in agreeing to a summit.
The fact that the leaders of the South and North Korea met at a well-publicised summit in the demilitarised zone between the two countries owed much to the overblown rhetoric by the amateur US leader who threatened to blast North Korea out of existence. A prosperous South felt mortified more by the new American president than it was of its ever inscrutable fire-eating dictator. A frightened Moon Jai-in, the president of South Korea, took the initiative for talks. It was this meeting of the two Korean leaders which paved the way for the proposed Trump-Kim summit. But before it could even take place, Trump’s braggadocio has already torpedoed the summit. Such immature conduct of diplomacy from the leader of the free world does him or the US no credit. Indeed, it only diminishes the power and standing of the US in the global community.
Unable to appreciate various interests, covert and obvert, in the conduct of diplomacy, Trump probably has now come to realise the hard way that you cannot dictate terms to a foreign country however small or big it may be. If Kim has reverted to strong words against the American leadership yet again, Trump’s climb-down in regard to creating barriers for the Chinese imports has shown him down to be a complete ignoramus. After threatening a full-scale trade war, he now has had to abandon the much-ballyhooed imposts on Chinese steel and aluminum. Clearly, he has been made to realise that China might be using its enormous leverage with North Korea to threaten the latter’s withdrawal from the proposed summit in Singapore. Why, even on the unilateral cancellation of the Iran deal, Trump finds himself isolated, having alienated the European allies and others. The way he is conducting foreign policy, there is a real danger that the US may be left with no friends while Trump creates new enemies for his country. He should leave it to the much-maligned permanent executive to conduct the domestic and foreign business of his country while he himself enjoys the trappings of the presidential office. That is the best way to insulate America from an amateur, raw and delusional non-leader it most unwisely chose to put in the White House.