WASHINGTON — After inflating a bubble of expectation for a historic summit with North Korea, President Donald Trump popped it.
His withdrawal from a hastily arranged summit with Kim Jong Un drew strong criticism and some praise in Washington.
Trump opponents said he botched a delicate, diplomatic dance with North Korea, at the risk of fueling tensions, cold-shouldering allies like South Korea and making China less willing to put economic pressure on Pyongyang.
But some North Korea watchers said it was the right thing to do. Trump wasn't convinced that Pyongyang was serious about giving up its nuclear weapons capabilities, they said, so the president was right to scrap the summit for now and keep testing Kim's interest in substantive negotiations.
"I don't think that this closes the door," said Olli Heinonen, a former deputy director-general at the U.N. nuclear agency. "He is testing how willing Kim is. We have to remember why Kim comes to the meeting. The sanctions are biting. They have economic trouble there. I don't think this is the end of the road."
The big question now is how Kim reacts.
He was spurned on the very day North Korea demolished its nuclear test site in front of international journalists granted unprecedented access to the remote site, a concrete if not irreversible gesture toward denuclearization.
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