Radio Sputnik asked Tong Zhao, a fellow at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, for his take on this.
Sputnik: What is your reaction to Mr. Trump’s decision? How surprising is it to you?
Tong Zhao: I’m personally very disappointed. I think that a great opportunity for diplomacy was lost. I think both the US and North Korea can gain a lot by having this direct person-to-person meeting between their national leaders; nothing but the best chance to resolve their critical differences and […] any hostilities, and make some progress on their dispute on the nuclear issue.
Sputnik: We do have comments about the Libyan model. Everybody knows how badly the Libyan model ended for Libya and for the leader of Libya. Do you think that that was sort of an unsurmountable slap in the face to say you know: "We wanted to do the Libyan model?"
Tong Zhao: Reference to the Libyan model by senior US officials including national security adviser John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence didn’t help; but fundamentally, I think it is the basic fact that the US started to realize there is a major gap between the American position and the North Korean position on the nuclear issue.
North Korea was never really prepared to give up its nuclear weapons in the near-term future. North Korea wants to retain its courage and deterrence to shield against any future uncertainty.
The US president might mistakenly believe that North Korea was ready to surrender its nuclear weapons, but only came to a different understanding of that issue lately, as a result he thought [that] there was going to be no chance for a major breakthrough on the nuclear issue it doesn’t make any sense to have the summit anyway.
Sputnik: How significant do you think was the ceremony in which the test site was destroyed for journalists? And that came right before Donald Trump basically pulled out of the talks.
Tong Zhao: I think the US withdrew from the summit hours after North Korea just closed down and dismantled part of the nuclear test site – the timing wasn’t good. It was only creating this impression that North Korea was a reasonable party; they wanted to talk and wanted to exercise self-restraint, it was the Americans that walked out of this diplomatic process.
I think that the North Koreans are serious about closing down their nuclear test sites, because technically speaking, after six nuclear tests, North Koreans are very likely to have already possessed a basic capability to produce a militarized nuclear warhead. They don’t have to conduct any additional military tests, and therefore they can afford closing down the test sites.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.