May 24, 2018

How the North Korea summit got derailed

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump hasn’t shut the door on the possibility that a North Korea summit could still happen — but for now, he’s warning North Korea not to try anything.

Behind the scenes: A White House official told Axios’ Jonathan Swan: “They literally threatened nuclear war. …[N]o summit will work under these circumstances, when they’re literally threatening our people.”

For now, it’s back to the days of “fire and fury.”

  • Here’s what Trump said this afternoon at the White House: “Our military, which is by far the most powerful anywhere in the world … is ready if necessary.”
  • South Korea and Japan are “ready should foolish or reckless acts be taken by North Korea.”
  • But, but, but: “It’s possible that the existing summit could take place or a summit at some later date. Nobody should be anxious. We have to get it right.”

Two views on where we’re headed, from Axios Expert Voices:

  • The case for pessimism, from Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations: “There was no way the summit could have succeeded … Better that the summit was postponed than to have ended up in dramatic failure.”
  • The case for optimism, from Tony Blinken, former deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration: “Both leaders still likely want this meeting to happen.”

Go deeper:

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Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

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Energy deputy secretary nominee faces heat after contradicting Trump

Mark Menezes speaks at a forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 12. Photo: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Trump administration officials are internally raising concerns about President Trump’s nominee for Energy deputy secretary, who appeared to openly contradict the president on nuclear waste storage at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain last week.

Driving the news: While speaking at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing last Wednesday, Mark Menezes told members of the panel that the Trump administration is still interested in storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain and that “what we're trying to do is to put together a process that will give us a path to permanent storage at Yucca."