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The year 2019 has expired, along with Kim Jong Un’s promise/threat to send President Donald Trump “a Christmas gift” by the end of the year. Since the proffered holiday present was tied to North Korea’s demand that Washington lift sanctions for its nuclear program, it was widely interpreted by U.S. experts to portend an escalation in the negotiations standoff, such as a new long-range missile launch or even a nuclear test.
As Gift Day approached, Pyongyang increased its warnings with escalating rhetoric harkening back to the personal insult stage of the early Trump administration. Western concerns and tensions mounted amid preparations for a likely dramatic event and an appropriate response.
Day - Year - Nothing - Untoward - North
But it is now the last day of the year, and nothing untoward has been heard, seen, or detected from North Korea. Now the experts are asking why. What changed Kim’s mind about doing something provocative to get the president to bend?
Pending further insights into the dictator’s mind, we are left to speculate about possible explanations.
Threat - Place - Mind - Game - Bluff
One is that it wasn’t a serious threat in the first place, just a geopolitical mind game, a gigantic bluff to panic the politically-beleaguered administration into lifting sanctions.
With the American president now buffeted by the impeachment challenge, Kim may have reasoned his new friend and pen-pal would welcome a pretext in the form of sanctions relief to show American goodwill in the holiday season and cool tensions before the U.S. election.
North - Koreans - Mentors - Beijing - Situation
If that was how the North Koreans and their senior mentors in Beijing assessed the situation, they appear, once again, to have misjudged U.S. resistance to make further concessions without significant progress toward denuclearization.
They could well have been led astray by relying on prior administration policy fluctuations that they viewed as showing flexibility (i.e., weakness): the reversals on ZTE and Huawei, deferral of several key trade talk...
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