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Odds North Korea Meets with Trump after Bolton’s “Libya Model” Statements

A side-by-side image of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.
The scheduled meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong Un may not happen after some impolitic comments by John Bolton. Image by Blue House (public domain).
  • President Trump’s historic meeting with Kim Jong Un is in jeopardy. 
  • Comments from National Security Advisor John Bolton appear to have angered the North Koreans. 
  • Will the two sides come to the table on June 12 to discuss denuclearization?

Short days ago, plans for a historic meeting between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appeared to be set. There was a date: June 12. There was a location: Singapore. There was even agreement on the topic of discussion: the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Then, new National Security Advisor John Bolton went on Face the Nation and made aggressive statements about the dismantling of North Korea’s entire nuclear program, and now North Korea may not be willing to come to the table at all.

Bolton’s statements, and past references to the Libyan model of denuclearization, have indicated to the Koreans that the US is not actually willing to negotiate, that the Trump administration has a hard-line about what it requires from North Korea which leaves little room for flexibility.

In essence, North Korea is worried that the US will not enter the proposed talks in good faith.

“High-ranking officials of the White House … are letting loose assertions of so-called Libya mode … while talking about formula of ‘abandoning nuclear weapons first, compensating afterwards.’ … This is not an expression of intention to address the issue through dialogue.” — Press Statement by North Korea’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs

That the references to the “Libyan model” sat poorly with the North Koreans is understandable, since Libya’s own ruthless dictator met an equally ruthless demise back in 2011.

Is the recent reluctance out of Pyongyang simply pre-negotiation posturing or is the meeting actually in jeopardy of falling through?

Trump/Kim Jong Un Meeting Odds

 President Trump meets with Kim Jong Un on June 12, 2018, in Singapore 1/2
President Trump meets with Kim Jong Un at any point, in any location, in 2018 1/3

North Korean experts largely agree that the recent rhetoric out of Pyongyang is more about setting expectations and framing the discussion for the meeting than it is about actually pulling out.

In addition, Trump himself has contradicted Bolton’s remarks regarding Libya, which may help placate North Korea’s concerns.

Yet, within the same statement, Trump also issued a veil threat at Kim Jong Un that he would meet a similar fate as Gaddafi if the US and North Korea don’t reach a deal on denuclearization.

With over a month left before the proposed meeting and the US/NK relationship already taking a frosty turn since last week’s hostage release, there’s a significant possibility the meeting doesn’t happen as planned, or at all in 2018.

We are, after all, dealing with arguably the most unpredictable regime in the world … and North Korea.

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Sascha was a hockey player in his youth, a lawyer in his capricious mid-20s, and has been SBD's lead oddsmaker/number cruncher since 2014. He writes about everything you can possibly put odds on. He's happiest when those things are football, baseball, hockey and basketball (in that order).