U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday reassured Kim Jong Un that he would get protections under a nuclear deal with the United States, amid threats from Pyongyang to cancel a landmark summit next month. Asked about the Libya model, Trump made it clear that “it isn’t the model that we have at all when we’re thinking of North Korea.” He said Kim Jong Un will get protections that will be very strong,” emphasizing that his administration is not seeking regime change. However, Trump issued a warning to Kim that the Libya model would take place if the North Korean leader doesn’t make a deal on his nuclear weapons program.
Trump’s remarks are interpreted as a strong will in Washington to continue to maintain the momentum for the summit to take place. The U.S. president offered a reassurance to the regime in Pyongyang that Kim would remain in control of his country if he makes a deal as the regime expressed strong opposition at the mention of the Libya model. Up until now, it was former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who had said the trump administration’s North Korea policy would not call for regime change, regime collapse, unification through absorption and invasion. But this time around, President Trump promised strong protections to North Korea’ leader.
“We never said to Gaddafi, ‘we’re going to give you protection, military power, or anything.’ We decimated him,” Trump said on the Libya model. Gaddafi was killed in an uprising in 2011 after he completely relinquished his nuclear weapons program. It is not sure whether Trump was fully aware of the Libya model and the ousted leader’s eventual downfall when he made such a comment that he would give protection to Kim Jong Un. But Trump’s remarks represent a clear message aimed at trying to appease North Korea.
Trump also threatened Kim with the same fate as Gaddafi if the North Korean regime refuses to abandon its nuclear arsenal. He called for Kim on choosing either a path to prosperity like the other Korea or an end by military attack or civil uprising. Trump suggested Chinese President Xi Jinping could be behind North Korea’ sudden pushback on meetings and rhetoric against Washington but said there would nothing to change.
North Korea will deploy a wide array of negotiation tactics to gain leverage before the Trump-Kim summit scheduled for June 12 in Singapore. As part of an effort to do so, Pyongyang has cancelled planned talks with South Korean officials, complaining about joint military exercises being conducted between South Korea and the United States. Washington seems to try to coordinate things with patience. Trump knows how to negotiate and what he needs to offer in return for the North’s giving up its nukes. Now it is up to Kim Jong Un, who knows how unpredictable his U.S. counterpart can go, to make a wise decision.