Told you so.
The news that Kim Jong-un is threatening to scuttle his planned talks with Donald Trump has sent me back to articles I have written about this nuclear saga.
There it is, line after line urging caution.
Take this story from March 10 this year, in the wake of news of the leaders meeting:
“Firstly this is good news: anything that takes us back from the edge of nuclear confrontation is welcome. But — and it is a big but — should we expect any lasting outcome”.
In that article, I detailed a timeline of false starts and disappointments.
From 1992 when the two Koreas signed a statement of denuclearisation (does that sound like something else we’ve heard recently?)
To 2005 when Pyongyang announced it had nuclear weapons. To 2006 when North Korea said it would abandon its nuclear program.
Meeting after meeting, promise after promise all coming to nothing.
As I wrote: “On and on it goes. See a pattern? Promises, deals, more talks then more threats.”
Winter Olympics and the Korean thaw
Let’s go back earlier to the 10th of January this year.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in shake hands at the Inter-Korean Summit. (ABC News: Supplied)
In an article detailing North Korea’s nuclear arsenal — US intelligence estimates as many as 60 bombs — I wrote:
“We know how this ends, even if that ending is so horrifying we dare not even think about it.”
This was the height of Donald Trump’s “little rocket man” slurs and Kim Jong-un’s threats to turn Asia into “a sea of fire”.
The Winter Olympics beckoned with the hope of diplomacy.
“Today the door is ajar, North and South Korean officials are talking. Next month’s Winter Olympics has created a diplomatic opportunity. Close observers say it is an opportunity not to be missed. But we have seen this before. North Korea has a history of playing bait-and-switch: entering negotiations, extracting concessions then walking away and upping the ante.”
Well, the Olympic diplomatic thaw did yield the historic meeting last month between Jim Jong-un and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in.
Remember that? Talk of peace and an end to nuclear weapons.
Let me remind you of my article from April 30:
“North Korea is at its most powerful position in its history. Mr Kim has learnt the lessons of the past; he has watched as other regimes and other leaders — Iraq, Libya — with no nuclear capacity, have fallen. He has vowed that will not happen to him: regime survival is paramount.”
North Korea has played this game
What has happened since? Donald Trump’s newly installed National Security Adviser, John Bolton, has suggested that North Korea adopt the Libyan model: allow open inspections and abandon its nuclear program.
Kim Jong-un knows how that ends: he well remembers the killing of Libyan leader Moamar Gaddafi.
Now we should be surprised that he is not that keen on meeting Donald Trump after all?
As I wrote on April 30: “North Korea has played this game before.”
Now, we are back where we started.
Citing concerns about joint US-South Korea military exercises, Pyongyang has cancelled meetings with Seoul.
Look to history not hope
The future of the Kim-Trump meeting is anyone’s guess.
“There is no present, there is no future — only the past happening over and over again.” (KCNA)
Even if it goes ahead, I have reported on and written about these meetings too often to trust that what is agreed on one day will still hold the day after.
I don’t claim any great prescience, but almost two decades of covering this story, standing outside meetings, reporting from inside North Korea and the China-North Korea border, talking to North Korean defectors and some of the great Korea scholars, has taught me one thing: when it comes to North Korea always look to history not hope.
Let me cite another article I wrote:
“The great playwright Eugene O’Neill famously said: ‘There is no present, there is no future — only the past happening over and over again’.”
Matter of Fact with Stan Grant is on the ABC News Channel at 9pm, Monday to Thursday.