1. Exquisite Tweets from @realDonaldTrump, @ColinKahl

    PreoccupationsCollected by Preoccupations

    Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!

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    realDonaldTrump

    Donald J. Trump

    I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake. We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea. China, on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese Trade-Hope Not!

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    realDonaldTrump

    Donald J. Trump

  2. <THREAD> On the heels of Pompeo’s disastrous trip to North Korea, Trump took to Twitter today to insist Kim Jong Un signed a “contract” to denuclearize & to blame China for any apparent NKorean backsliding.

    Here are some thoughts on where things stand.
    twitter.com/realdonaldtrum… 1/

    Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
    I have confidence that Kim Jong Un will honor the contract we signed &, even more importantly, our handshake. We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea. China, on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese Trade-Hope Not!

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    As many North Korea experts warned, Trump entered last month’s Singapore summit with Kim with two misimpressions.

    First, Trump believed his “maximum pressure” campaign meant that he had Kim over a barrel, ready to make big nuclear concessions. 2/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    But, in reality, Kim entered the summit from a perceived position of strength having already crossed the goal line, achieving a nuclear capability to credibly threaten the United States (via an ICBM), thereby ensuring regime survival & global prestige. 3/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    So Kim was happy to freeze his program in place and play the long game to weaken the US position on the Peninsula and in Asia more broadly (starting with a freeze on U.S. military exercises), a goal Kim knew the Chinese would support. 4/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    A second Trump misimpression was his belief that he could use his personal charisma and skill as a deal maker to charm Kim into making big concessions.

    Yet Kim, like other dictators Trump interacts with, knew how to flatter and play the president instead. 5/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    Kim even got Trump to mimic North Korean propaganda by describing US military exercises with our South Korean ally as “war games” that are “expensive” and “provocative.” (Another position China has long held.) 6/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    Having gone into the summit with these misimpressions, Trump got suckered. Trump got his reality show spectacle, signed a one-and-a-half page statement (not “contract”) full of empty promises, and flew home declaring he’d solved the nuclear threat. twitter.com/realdonaldtrum… 7/

    Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
    Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!

    Reply Retweet Like

    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    But the Pompeo visit to Pyongyang revealed two chasms that North Korea experts warned about.

    The first chasm remains longstanding differences in how the key word “denuclearization” is interpreted, which the vague summit statement did nothing to clarify. 8/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    The statement reads: “[North Korea] commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

    Team Trump continues to interpret this as a one-sided North Korean commitment to complete, verifiable, irreversible, denuclearization in the near term. 9/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    North Korea, however, interprets denuclearization as an obligation for all parties on the Korean Peninsula, including the United States, thereby seeing its commitment as part of a long-term, multiparty, reciprocal move toward disarmament that likely never culminates. 10/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    The second chasm revealed by the Pompeo visit regards sequencing. 11/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    Team Trump wants a North Korean declaration of all nuclear, WMD, & missile capabilities; a roadmap, timetable, & verification mechanism for denuclearization; and substantial dismantling—all BEFORE the US offers a peace treaty or economic concessions. 12/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    North Korea, however, expects a peace treaty up front in exchange for a limited dismantling of some long-range missile testing capacity as a confidence-building measure. 13/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    This would be followed by a reciprocal, step-by-step process (which China & South Korea support) where every move the North makes is met by additional US security assurances, the relaxation of sanctions, and economic aid. 14/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    Interestingly, this ordering is actually better supported by the sequence outlined in the short summit statement Trump signed, which lists denuclearization third (so Trump better hope it isn’t a “contract”!) 👇15/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    North Korea’s desired endstate for talks has now come into view: an early peace treaty that puts pressure on US troops to leave South Korea (something Trump supports) in exchange for concessions on the North’s ICBM capacity (which is all Trump really cares about). 16/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    Then the North would engage in lengthy talks making minor reductions in their program in exchange for US economic concessions, leaving Pyongyang in a position of strength on the Peninsula & US alliances in Asia weakened (an outcome China supports too).17/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    Gaining clarity on denuclearization & sequencing are precisely the kinds of issues that months- or years-long talks at the working level aim to address BEFORE leaders meet.

    But Trump thought he knew better. And he walked into the very trap experts warned about. 18/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    This makes diplomacy with North Korea, which was always going to be VERY hard, much harder. Both Trump & Kim think they know what the vague Singapore statement really means & have said so publicly. But they don’t actually agree. 19/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    As lower-level diplomats now meet to do the actual work of addressing the huge chasms that remain, any perceived step back from these positions now creates higher political costs for both Trump and Kim, making agreement more difficult and a diplomatic breakdown more likely. 20/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    So Trump has boxed himself in.

    He can take a deal that is bad for us & our allies (although one he may be attracted to given his disdain for allies and his “America First” doctrine) or... 21/

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl

    ...Trump can play hard ball, attempt to blame China, & risk a diplomatic collapse with no Plan B (given that reconstituting “maximum pressure” will be nearly impossible at this stage) other than a cataclysmic war. 22/22

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    ColinKahl

    Colin Kahl