North Korea threatens to cancel Trump summit, reminds world it really loves its nukesvox•North Korea threatens to cancel Trump summit, reminds world it really loves its nukesNorth Korea may have undone months of diplomacy in only a few hours. In a statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Tuesday night, a top Pyongyang official criticized America’s insistence that North Korea completely dismantle its nuclear program and even warned that the regime might scuttle the upcoming summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.“If the US is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-US summit,” said Kim Kye Gwan, a vice foreign minister, using the official acronym for North Korea.The statement also got strangely personal: It singled out John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, for having said the US expects Pyongyang to give up all of its nuclear weapons. “We do not hide a feeling of repugnance towards him,” the vice minister said.The statement came just hours after North Korea abruptly canceled a planned meeting with South Korea out of anger over joint US-South Korea military drills that started last week. Pyongyang routinely claims those exercises are practice for an eventual invasion of North Korea.North Korea’s perceived about-face is a big deal. The planned June 12 Trump-Kim summit in Singapore would be the culmination of nearly six months of intense diplomacy between North Korea and the United States, along with China and South Korea. Those efforts temporarily reversed the path toward war both countries were on last year, and there were even signs Washington and Pyongyang would come to some agreement over North Korea’s nuclear program.But now, even the Trump-Kim meeting is in jeopardy — which means Trump may lose the opportunity to strike a historic deal.Why North Korea doesn’t like what the Trump administration is saying The Trump administration keeps saying it wants “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization,” meaning North Korea would dismantle its nuclear program altogether and allow experts to confirm it’s not hiding anything. In exchange, North Korea would receive financial incentives, most immediately in the form of sanctions relief.But that’s a no-go for Pyongyang.Experts believe Kim thinks nuclear weapons keep his regime safe. Part of that is because of what happened to Muammar Qaddafi, Libya’s former dictator. Qaddafi had a nuclear weapons program but in 2003 he made a deal to remove those weapons from his country in exchange for economic benefits.Then in 2011, anti-Qaddafi rebels captured and killed him — with American help. Had he kept his nuclear weapons, it’s entirely possible the US would not have intervened during the country’s civil war and Qaddafi would not have met such an end.“Kim Jong Un does not want to end up like Qaddafi, overthrown with Western military assistance after giving up his nuclear weapons program,” Kelsey Davenport, a nuclear expert at the Arms Control Association, told me.In fact, the vice foreign minister explicitly referenced Libya in his statement on Tuesday, saying that North Korea is not Libya, which “met a miserable fate.”All of this means that the US and North Korea remain in a stalemate over nuclear weapons heading into the summit.“The fundamental challenge has not changed: The United States will not accept anything less than North Korea’s complete denuclearization, and Pyongyang will not willingly denuclearize,” Abraham Denmark, a former top Pentagon official focusing on Asia, told me.“North Korea would probably agree to something less than full denuclearization,” Denmark said, “but it is unclear if the Trump administration will accept an agreement that falls short of its sky-high expectations.”But last Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signaled the US might accept a cap on North Korea’s missile program so that it can’t strike America. That’d be less than getting North Korea to denuclearize. So at this point, it’s not 100 percent clear what Trump may do if he meets with Kim.North Korea is hard to deal with. The Trump administration isn’t making it any easier.Experts have continually cautioned that the Trump administration’s hardline stance toward North Korea might cause Pyongyang to bristle. And, well, it has.“Hardline negotiating tactics, agreeing to do something and threatening to back out, refusing to denuclearize, rejecting a Libya-style deal, and hating on Bolton’s mustache — these are all things you could file under ‘shit that experts have been warning about for months,’” Van Jackson, a North Korea expert at the Victoria University of Wellington, told me while making a joke about Bolton’s facial hair.This was somewhat predictable. North Korea has a history of making deals with the US over its nuclear program only to back out later on. In 1994, the US and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework, in which the North agreed to freeze its nuclear reactors in exchange for two nuclear power reactors and fuel oil from the United States. But the agreement collapsed in 2002, and by January 2003, the North had resumed its nuclear program.And in 2009, Pyongyang walked out on talks with the US and four other countries to end its nuclear program, citing disagreements over technical details related to verification. Afterward, North Korea ramped up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs to the point that it now likely has a hydrogen bomb and a missile that could reach all of the United States.So it’s not the Trump administration’s fault that North Korea is a mercurial and tough negotiating partner. But the administration’s hardline stance isn’t making things any easier.“North Korea is not going to just give up a nuclear weapons program it spent the past 20-plus years creating for some hazy future economic relief,” Alexandra Bell, a nuclear expert at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, told me. “Maybe calls for a Nobel Prize were ever so premature.”
Jim Carrey dissected President Donald Trump’s efforts at diplomacy with North Korea and his standing on the world stage in a new painting.In his latest piece, the actor-artist depicts Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, encouraging North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to attend an upcoming summit with Trump:Jim Carrey@JimCarrey „Just take the damn meeting and pretend you’re disarming so we can keep this stooge in the White House for another term. When democracy is dead we’ll give you a seat at the grown-up’s table. You’ll be even more famous than the Kim with the big ass.”Carrey shared his latest politically-charged painting on Twitter Wednesday morning, shortly after North Korea reportedly threatened to pull out of the historic June 12 summit in Singapore.However, it wasn’t the first time that Carrey has painted Trump as Putin’s “stooge.”
Report: President Trump signed an Alabama football and no one at the White House knows where it isJack Baer • Here’s what we know: President Donald Trump signed a football when the Alabama football team visited the White House. (AP Photo)The Alabama defense saw its fair share of fumbles during the 2017-18 season but it appears we can add one more after the team’s visit to President Donald Trump’s White House.Trump welcomed the national champion Crimson Tide to the White House in April and went through the usual festivities. He received a special Alabama jersey bearing his name, he gave a speech exalting the Tide’s efforts and he made sure to note he won the state of Alabama in the 2016 election, even though not everyone on the team was a fan of his. He was also given a football to sign, and that’s where this story takes a turn.The case of Trump’s missing football According to a story from Politico, former White House staffer and Alabama grad Cliff Sims had Trump sign a special Alabama football during the Tide’s visit apparently as a gift for Alabama governor Kay Ivey. The football is now missing.Trump having a football to sign was reportedly news to his staff, as Sims dropped into the Oval Office and said he needed the ball signed for Ivey. Trump complied. No one knows where the ball went next. Sims reportedly said he had the ball gifted to the Alabama state house, while others told Politico that they had seen the ball in Sims’ office. The confusion eventually reached the office of White House chief of staff John Kelly. From Politico:…the ball eventually ended up on John Kelly’s desk, and the frustrated chief of staff summoned Sims into his office to ask him what the heck was going on with his unexpected presence in the Oval Office, and a signed football floating around the White House. Sims declined to comment.Sims, whose title was special assistant to the president and director of White House message strategy, has now left the administration, but the question of the football’s location remains. Ivey’s office did not respond to to a request for comment from Politico and the piece of memorabilia could reportedly still just be somewhere in the White House.Who at the White House is being blamed for the missing football?While Sims was the staffer who had the ball go missing on his watch, Politico notes the whole episode was another example of how Kelly has struggled to maintain order. It’s quite unlikely a missing football could lead to actual consequences for anyone, but anecdotes like this can be emblematic of an embattled administration.