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The Summit Cancellation: The Chess Players Don't Know Each Other

Ball State professor says North Korea and the U.S. may talk again, but the Koreans are above all, concerned about preserving the regime.

MUNCIE, Ind.--The cancellation of the Singapore Summit may actually be a healthy development for both the U.S. and North Korea, and their talks on denuclearization. Prof. Kevin Smith, associate dean for the College of Sciences and Humanities at Ball State University made that analysis after studying Pres. Trump's decision to cancel the summit Thursday.

The chess players

Smith said the talks between Russia and the U.S. in the 1980s had challenges along the way before the two sides achieved any success. He likened the back and forth between the U.S. and North Korea to a chess game being played between two people who don't have much experience playing one another.

"The challenge is Pres. Trump is not experienced in these kinds of issues," said Smith, pointing out that Kim Jong Un is young and inexperienced.

He said both sides are having difficulty determining what each other wants, and that we may have different definitions of denuclearization.

Lack of expertise

But, one main failure is that the U.S. doesn't have a fully staffed State Department, partly because so many people who were experts were "never-Trumpers" during the campaign, and were not asked to be a part of the State Department, said Smith.

"There's a sense in which it looks like he canceled this summit before the North Koreans could cancel it," said Smith, talking about the reasons it happened, which he said are difficult to diagnose from the outside. "The idea is that if you allow them to cancel it, then you lose face."

The Pence interview

Some people have speculated that Vice-Pres. Mike Pence's interview on Fox News last week may have contributed to the summit cancellation because it angered the Kim administration.

"Vice-Pres. Pence's reference to the Libyan model, in the aftermath of National Security Advisor John Bolton's reference to that, is a very sensitive for the North Koreans because, of course Muammar Gaddafi was ejected from power and was killed," said Smith. "Regime survival is above all of importance to the North Koreans."

Smith said he believes there is a possibility that the summit could be reinstated, or perhaps something different might be arranged. He said the challenge is both parties being able to get somewhere close to the same page.

PHOTO: Getty Images/AFP/Ed Jones

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