In one of the clearest signs of just how much Kim Jong Un wanted an agreement at what became the failed Hanoi summit in February with President Donald Trump, CNN has learned that the North Korean leader gave specific orders to his generals to not carry out any unplanned activity in the days and weeks leading up the meeting, according to a senior South Korean official and a US defense official.
The US official added that Kim was worried any inadvertent movement of his military units would raise tensions leading up to the summit. He issued specific orders that forces stay in place in a passive status, without any indication they were moving in the field. His goal was to ensure existing military confidence building measures would remain in place, especially in the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea, with the aim of helping him convince Trump to ease sanctions on the regime.
The previously undisclosed orders by the North Korean leader and the subsequent failure to convince Trump to agree to a partial lifting of sanctions without a move towards denuclearization have underscored the assessment by the US that Kim thought he could convince Trump to agree. “He underestimated the President,” the official said.
North Korean forces subsequently returned to their regular deployment status. The orders did not involve missile and nuclear sites which are always under Kim’s strict controls, according to the official. The orders issued by Kim prior to the summit would have significantly reduced the ability of the units affected to suddenly fire their weapons. The US saw no evidence that North Korea was intending any provocation using its conventional forces, suggesting Kim’s order may have had more to do with his worries about a sudden mistake in the field.