WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump drew gasps at the United Nations General Assembly last September when he threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea.
Eight months later, he said “everyone” thought he should get the Nobel Peace Prize for a new approach that aimed to put him at a table with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, to negotiate denuclearization.
Now that planned meeting, scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, is off, capping a months-long back-and-forth with nuclear-armed Pyongyang and denying Trump the foreign policy victory he craved.
Speaking at a White House event, the president said the cancellation was a setback for North Korea and the world.
It was also a setback for Trump, who prides himself on his ability to make deals.
After pulling the United States out of the Iran nuclear agreement and aggravating allies with trade tariffs on steel and aluminum, a potential success with Kim would have created an opportunity for the former New York businessman and his supporters to tout his unconventional style as beneficial to the world.
“It’s obviously a setback (for Trump.) Whether it’s a blow is another matter altogether,” said William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a political analyst.
Galston said Americans were unlikely to blame Trump for the summit cancellation, even as they would have credited him had it proceeded with success.
“It would have been a tremendous coup if the summit had gone forward and it had produced something significant,” he said.
Trump had raised expectations especially high for the get-together. He abandoned the heated rhetoric that had spurred concerns about war and adopted a conciliatory tone toward Kim, whom he referred to as open and honorable.