A few weeks ago I wrote that the inclusion of hawks on his foreign policy team meant that US President Donald Trump was more than likely going to antagonise the North Koreans.
People like Mike Pompeo, John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani had made public statements that threatened to derail the diplomatic process.
When the summit was initially cancelled, the North Koreans cited statements that Vice President Mike Pence had made which called for the US to use the Libya model of denuclearisation with the Koreans.
As has been widely reported, the Libya model is problematic for regimes like the one in Pyongyang because of what eventually happened to Muammar Gadhafi and his government.
Of course, the idea of the Libya model did not come from Pence but from Bolton. He was the first to mention it during a television interview which Pence and his staff then picked up.
With the summit back on, both sides have made diplomatic overtures that they previously had been unwilling to make.
After meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Kim has “firm will” for denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.
“Following up from the Panmunjeom Declaration, Chairman Kim again stated his will for complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” Moon said.
Trump for his part said that he believed in the economic potential of the North and offered more incentives for its denuclearisation.
“I truly believe North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial nation one day,” Trump wrote. “Kim Jong-un agrees with me on this. It will happen!”
The US president has increasingly offered economic rewards in exchange for denuclearisation, although the exact terms of any deal are unclear.
With the summit set for June 12, the only thing that can (once again) derail the historic meeting is the influence of the hawks in Trump’s cabinet.
To his credit, Secretary of State Pompeo has toned down his rhetoric and has even expressed his optimism at the possible outcome of the summit. However, others like Giuliani continue making ludicrous statements to the press.
Giuliani was caught making statements in Tel Aviv that North Korea had begged for the summit to proceed on their “hands and knees”.
Statements like these are problematic in normal diplomatic circles much less a sensitive regime like the one in Pyongyang.
It seems that President Trump is aware of the problem, however.
Hardliners on North Korea were not seen accompanying Trump when he greeted Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee and the North Korean leader’s top aide, in the White House.
Kim Yong-chol, a former spy chief on the US sanctions list, flew to the US to have meetings with Pompeo in preparation for North Korea-US summit. In Washington, he delivered a letter from North Korean leader to Trump.
Bolton, the national security adviser, and Pence – both hawks on North Korea – did not take part in the meeting and were not seen around.
Trump has kept a distance from the “Libyan model” recently in an apparent attempt to appease North Korea worries about the security of its regime.
With rumours that Bolton will also not be appearing at the negotiating table in Singapore, perhaps the summit has a chance.
COD SATRUSAYANG is the managing editor of Asia News Network