Reading the Clues on North Korea

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Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang

Tim Willasey-Wilsey is a former senior member of the British Foreign Office and a Cipher Brief expert. He is currently a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at Kings College London’s Department of War Studies.

President Trump’s short walk inside North Korea on 30th June was great theatre; perfect for a politician launching his bid for re-election. It also had value in providing fresh evidence for Kim Jong-un of their “special friendship” at a time when Kim might be forgiven for wondering whether he had been forgotten as Washington’s foreign policy focus had shifted to Iran. Xi Jinping’s visit to Pyongyang on 20th June (the first by a Chinese leader to North Korea for 14 years) might have been an additional motive for Trump’s visit just in case Beijing was hoping to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the Hanoi Summit.
The failure of the Hanoi meetings of 27th and 28th February has had significant effects in both Koreas. We know why it failed; because North Korea offered too little too late, to dismantle Yongbyon, and expected too much in the way of sanctions relief. What is less well understood is why Kim Jong-un misread the situation so disastrously.

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