A peace too far
Even as the ice was broken during the last Winter Olympics; even as peace and normal relations seemed to be a distinct possibility in the Korean peninsula following the friendly talks between the North and South – everything seems to be hurtling back to square one following the entry of the Big Brother. Indeed, if the first summit between the two Koreas in the DMZ seemed like a dream come true, prospects of a Singapore Summit between North Korea and the US are cloaked in nightmarish apprehensions. This is primarily because Pyongyang does not want to be taken for granted. It had made clear its dislike for the "aggressive joint US-South Korea military exercises" and now it feels as if it is being "pushed to a corner" by being asked to get rid of all the nuclear weapons that it had taken years to build. This sudden loss of cool is understandable because nuclear weapons were the only card it had to come to any negotiation. Washington, on the other hand, is not known in recent times for its diplomatic manoeuvres. After all, in one stroke, it upset all its known allies with the arbitrary manner it chose to walk away from the Iran deal. As matters stand, President Donald Trump on Wednesday offered a non-committal response to North Korean threats to cancel his planned summit with Kim Jong-un, saying he had not received any information that would put the talks in jeopardy. Asked whether he would still insist upon North Korea's denuclearisation as a condition for the talks, Trump nodded yes. His aides were working on Wednesday to determine whether overnight warnings from North Korea might scuttle the highly-anticipated summit. The US administration had no advance warning that a top North Korean official would threaten to call off the talks if joint military exercises with South Korea continued or if the US maintained its insistence that North Korea immediately dismantle its nuclear programme. Trump was updated again on Wednesday morning after additional statements emerged from North Korea's disarmament negotiator rejecting the US call for immediate nuclear disarmament. "If the United States is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue," the statement from Kim Kye-gwan read. Washington officials said they wanted to make a determination before Trump himself responded. One person involved in planning for the talks expressed cautious optimism that the rhetoric coming from the North would not scuttle the meeting. But, the official acknowledged that Trump's response would be closely watched for signs he was softening or conceding anything to Kim. Be that as it may, for the moment it is a matter of a peace too far.