Earlier this week North Korea reacted to statements by Vice President Pence about pursuing a Libyan model for denuclearization and to joint military maneuvers with South Korea. They threatened to break off talks and to respond with force.
On Thursday, President Trump made his own response by cancelling the summit and reminding that we can also use force.
Naturally the pundits went crazy. In the Washington Post's afternoon email summary, there was an editorial plus columns by five columnists on what a poor negotiator Trump is. By the end of the day, North Korea released a statement that they are still willing to talk.
The irony here is that most of these same pundits had been worried that Trump was too caught up with the idea of winning a Nobel Prize and wanted the summit too much. They insisted that North Korea's Kim would be able to take advantage of Trump.
Trump came to office with the reputation of being a master negotiator and he is showing it here. He's proving that he's willing to walk away from a bad deal, or from someone who is unwilling to deal. That's important with North Korea. They've gotten the better of the US in previous negotiations.
It's also not as unusual as the pundits claim. Reagan walked away from a deal with the USSR only to have them restart negotiations. During negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, the head of the PLO, Yasser Arafat constantly walked out, forcing Secretary of State Madeline Albright to run after him in high heels.
It's a nice change from President Obama's approach to Iran. It was obvious from the start that he wanted a deal more than they did and they used that to negotiate a bad deal.
In reality, the biggest obstacle to an agreement with North Korea is the actions of President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton. They are also the reason that mentions of Libya set off warnings from North Korea.
During the George W. Bush administration and after the overthrow of Iraq, Libya voluntarily gave up its nuclear program in exchange for promises of normalized relations.
That lasted until the next American administration and the Arab Spring. A group of Islamists associated with the Arab Brotherhood met with Hillary Clinton and convinced her that they could be trusted to run Libya. She in turn convinced Obama and the US joined the effort to overthrow the Libyan government.
Pundits have complained that Trump announcing the Iran agreement will hurt negotiations with North Korea but Libya is a much bigger issue. We are reapplying sanctions on Iran because they are not in compliance with the agreement.
But we overthrew Libya after they gave up their nuclear program. The reason we gave, that we were protecting women and children refugees, was a lie. We were protecting Islamic rebels. But we'd almost certainly left Libya alone if they were nuclear-armed.
So now Trump has to convince Kim that he will be safe from the US, even after the next change of administrations. That's going to be far more difficult than it would have been if we'd stayed out of Libya. But I do think that the Trump administration is the best equipped for the job in a generation.