Trump Hits North Korea With Barrage of Mixed Signals

Trump dismissed 'Libya Model,' threatens Kim with Gadhafi's fate

The Trump Administration appears determine to respond to North Korea’s recent concerns about war games near their border ahead of the June 12 summit. It doesn’t seem that officials are entirely clear what North Korea wants to hear, however, so they’re trying pretty much everything.

President Trump in particular is throwing every combination of threats and incentives he can think of at North Korea, attempting to disavow the “Libya Model” talked of by John Bolton, while at the same time threatening to see Kim Jong-un end up dead like Libya’s Gadhafi if he doesn’t capitulate.

North Korea objects to the Libya Model primarily because of its consequences. Gadhafi agreed to give up his WMD equipment in 2003, in return for improved diplomatic ties. This never really panned out, however, and by 2011, NATO attacked Libya, helping rebels to ultimately capture and kill Gadhafi.

When they hear this as a “model,” North Korean officials see it as a tacit admission that the US is planning to make false promises to disarm them, and then eventually turn on them afterwards. Given Trump just disavowed the nuclear deal with Iran, his trustworthiness is not exactly strong going into the summit.

Trump is also promising if North Korea gives up their nuclear program, they’ll get “very strong” protections, of some non-specific form, and that North Korea will be “very rich” with Kim remaining in power.

Promises of South Korea-levels of wealth were also made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the weekend, though he insisted no US taxpayer money would be involved. It’s not at all clear how this would work, and the more serious question for North Korea is if these offers are even sincere at this point, or just idle promises to get them to disarm.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.