Amid a storm of domestic crises, and with less than five months until Election Day, President Donald Trump suddenly faces the prospect of having his signature foreign policy initiative, once quietly stalled, unravel spectacularly. Trump took personal charge of the daunting North Korea file early on, all but proclaiming victory after a groundbreaking, made-for-TV meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un in Singapore two years ago, immediately after which he announced on Twitter: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea.”
Back then, that sounded preposterously premature. Today, it brings faint echoes of Neville Chamberlain’s 1938 declaration of “peace for our time” after returning from Munich in 1938—another legendary misreading of negotiations with a tyrant.
The likelihood of North Korean nuclear disarmament and improved stability in the Korean Peninsula—the ultimate goal of the Trump-Kim talks—looks as distant today as it has in years. The odds now favor escalation and even confrontation.