The North Korean dictators, the Kim dynasty, are past-masters at brinksmanship. That is developing threatening weapons (at the expense of their own people’s welfare) and then using them to leverage more power on the international scene. In doing this they are aggressive risk takers. But, the key to their actions is that they will only go so far, to the brink, but not further, they will absolutely take no action that could harm the control of their hereditary regime.
It seems that they, specifically Kim Jong-un, has met his match in Pres. Donald Trump. When Kim Jong-un was testing nuclear bombs and long-range missiles, the surrounding countries, South Korea and Japan were understandably nervous. He also threatened to target the US. He wants to be recognized as a powerful actor on the international stage and wants his country to be a player at the highest levels, equivalent to a superpower. Previous American Presidents have failed to deal effectively with them and they refused to meet with them because they were afraid it would give them too much credibility. Meanwhile they continued their aggressive military developments.
When he “tested” missiles recently over Japan and towards Guam (a US protectorate and military base) Pres. Trump threatened him back and flew US AF planes along the North Korean border. He also threatened him verbally and since Trump is considered to be capable of anything, this brought about a 180 degree turnaround in Kim’s position. Instead of threatening, he agreed to stop the tests, stop his nuclear program and enter negotiations. In effect his brinksmanship worked, he got what he wanted, a meeting with the great chief, the President of the USA. Clearly China played an important role in his decision; after many years of doing nothing about their ally, Trump put economic pressure on China and Pres. Xi had two unprecedented meetings with Kim, in which he no doubt told him to stop this behavior and cooperate.
A Summit between Trump and Kim was agreed to take place in Singapore in June, and then again, in another example of brinksmanship, Kim and his North Korean puppets started to reverse their tone again, and were unavailable for meetings to organize the summit. So Trump did what no previous President has done, he peremptorily cancelled the Summit and once again threatened Kim’s regime. This quick reaction must have affected Kim, because once again he reversed himself and became cooperative. He met again with the South Korean President after cancelling the scheduled meeting. And he does desperately want to meet with the Pres. of the USA, but he doesn’t want to pay the price, denuclearization and stopping missile testing. By contrast, Trump is not going to a meeting unless he knows in advance that Kim is going to give major concessions. So now the meeting hangs in the balance.
I predict the meeting will take place because both sides need it. Kim to show his credibility on the world stage, and Trump to show he can make a deal with the devil and win. However, the twists and turns of this plot have not yet been exhausted, expect more brinksmanship from the North Korean leader.