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How the North Korean trap closed on Trump

In Mail on Sunday, Donald Trump has once again flattered Kim Jong-un . “He’s very smart, has a great personality. He is funny and he is also a very good negotiator”, insisted the American president, who never stops talking about the “progress” made with Pyongyang. However, one month after the historic meeting in Singapore between the American leader and the young dictator, the United States lost the hand in the negotiations of a denuclearization of the North Korean arsenal.

Sent to Pyongyang on 5 July, Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, failed to wrest any symbolic commitment from the regime. However, he referred to’productive’ discussions. “You can put as much lipstick as you want on a pig, it will always look like a pig. It was a very bad trip”, has just summarized, in a conference for the CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies), the analyst Victor Cha.

Negotiating a peace treaty
Kim Jong-un still refuses to evoke the denuclearization of his arsenal and tries, on the contrary, to obtain new concessions from the United States. After obtaining a halt to joint US-Korean military exercises and statements by Donald Trump questioning the presence of US troops in South Korea, Pyongyang wants Washington to now accept the negotiation of a peace treaty. “Despite the summit, they ask for exactly the same thing as before. We’re back to where we started,” says Victor Cha, who went through the same cycle in the 2000s when he worked for the State Department. “In addition, Pyongyang feels the weakness of the American position,” adds CSIS researcher Sue Mi Terry.

Lost Allies
Having already proclaimed that he had bowed North Korea, Donald Trump cannot acknowledge the failure of the negotiations and seeks tiny gestures from Pyongyang to maintain the illusion of progress. This week, he should point the resumption of negotiations on the return of the remains of American soldiers missing during the Korean War. Having accepted, this Sunday, a meeting on the subject, the North Korean army demands large payments to “officially” finance the work of excavation of American skeletons. During previous renditions, between 1990 and 2005, Pyongyang had received nearly 35,000 dollars per corpse.

In the coming months, Washington will struggle to get more. Brouillé with Seoul et en pleine guerre commerciale avec Pékin, Donald Trump a perdu les alliés qui lui avaient permis, l’année dernière, d’organiser un suffouffement économique du régime, par les sanctions, et avaient incité Kim Jong-un à reprendre un dialogue. South Korea is already talking about cooperation with Pyongyang again when China relaxed its controls on trade with the North at its border.

Yann Rousseau
Correspondent in Tokyo

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