As Norks denounce ‘gangster-like’ demands from Pompeo, Trump-haters revel in what they hope is failure

Almost as if they want a nuclear-armed North Korean rogue regime blackmailing the world – just to have a talking point against President Trump – Trump-haters can barely conceal their glee (“North Korea shatters Trumps’ boastful assurances…”) at a sign that efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament have encountered difficulties.

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Here is the lede from a more balanced take in the New York Times account, headlined: “North Korea Criticizes ‘Gangster-Like’ U.S. Attitude After Talks With Mike Pompeo.”

North Korea accused the Trump administration on Saturday of pushing a “unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization” and called it “deeply regrettable,” hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his two days of talks in the North Korean capital were “productive.”

That juxtaposition is intended to make Pompeo look like a fool. Yet, the next paragraphs conceded:

Despite the criticism, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, still wanted to build on the “friendly relationship and trust” forged with President Trump during their summit meeting in Singapore on June 12. The ministry said Mr. Kim had written a personal letter to Mr. Trump, reiterating that trust.

The harsh North Korean reaction may have been a time-tested negotiating tactic. Two months ago, a brief blowup between the two countries led President Trump to briefly cancel, then reschedule, his summit meeting with Mr. Kim. But North Korea’s remarks also played to a larger fear: that the summit meeting’s vaguely worded commitment to “the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” meant something very different in Pyongyang and Washington.

Even Trump-friendly Fox News runs a commentary suggesting that the US now has only three options, all of them bad.

I am not so certain. Of course, I don’t have personal knowledge of the thinking of Kim Jong un, nor do I understand the power dynamics of the small group of elites who control the levers of state power in Pyongyang. But I do know that  what Trump has demanded is a fundamental transformation of the regime itself, very similar to the change that China undertook in going from Mao Tse-tung to Deng Xiao-ping-style communism. If Kim is to sign on and bring the rest of the regime with him, he’ll have to allow them to bow off some rhetorical steam from time to time. Rhetorical excess is, as the Times notes, a ”time tested” ploy.

In the worst case, Trump has already succeeded in the return of some hostages and the remains of fallen soldiers, without giving a dime’s worth of aid to the Norks – a far better deal than the Clinton team, led by Madeleine Albright managed. “Not nearly as gullible and inept as the Democrats” would have to be the genuine criticism if the Norks walk away from the negotiations (which they are not doing at the moment).

But I think there is still a possible upside. Right now SecState Pompeo is in Tokyo, where a first rate nuclear arsenal could be achieved in a matter of months, something the Norks and the Chinese all fear and detest.

I strongly suspect that the talks -- and the drama from the Norks – will continue.