GENEVA – Nuclear talks between the United States and North Korea are welcome, but the bullying and threats that led up to them were reckless and it is South Korea that should get credit, the Nobel Prize winning anti-nuclear campaign group ICAN said on Thursday.
Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, said U.S. President Donald Trump was not responsible for bringing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to the negotiating table, since each hostile tweet merely prompted an equally hostile reaction from Pyongyang.
“It’s not a very stable way of conducting international relations, by threatening to mass murder a whole country,” Fihn told reporters in Geneva.
She said the politics were imbued with “toxic masculinity,” referring to a tweet in which Trump said his nuclear button was bigger and more powerful than North Korea’s.
“It feels a little bit like a measuring contest, and a safety blanket and a ‘show how tough you are,’ which is extremely concerning,” she said, speaking ahead of a two-week conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“What actually worked this time was very skillful diplomacy by South Korea, using the Olympics, being very careful at not coming across as threatening, but instead opening up for dialogue, inviting them to come to the Games, having a lot of these initial conversations, stroking egos on both sides.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley defended Trump’s language in the tweet at the time, saying it kept Kim “on his toes” and made clear the risks of a nuclear standoff.
Trump said on Wednesday he hoped the unprecedented summit would be successful after a visit to Pyongyang by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, but warned he would call it off if he did not think it would produce results.
Fihn said it was unclear how Trump would get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons while other countries held onto theirs and threatened to use them, but it was possible that he and Kim would hit it off.
“Obviously it’s going to be very hard for the rest of the world to actually influence this meeting. I think it really feels that it’s going to be down to two individuals, so anything can happen,” she said.