By Andrew L. Urban.
A hand made greeting card from ‘little Donald’, 12 year old Barron, sat in the inside pocket of his father’s jacket as Air Force One touched down in Seoul, on the way to the Demilitarized Zone summit. In it, Barron had simply written, ‘proud of you Dad’.
Seoul was looking forward to greeting the American President under blue skies; almost perfect weather, sunny and a mild 23C was forecast for the entire month. The sun was going to smile on this historic meeting between the two most baffling leaders on the planet, Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. The end-game was not quite world peace but at least region peace. Central stakeholders included both Koreas of course, as well as China, Russia and Iran. Japan was not far behind. Australia was geo-politically connected as was Britain, both key US allies, and indeed the rest of the world had an interest in the outcome.
The plan was to have Trump arrive to a warm welcome, not quite State visit style, but enough to show the significance of the event … the globally televised, event.
Symbols of hope and the future, also mirroring the little boy in the White House, a 12 year old Korean boy and girl (two different kids, not gender-glued) were to present Trump with a bunch of flowers to symbolise blooming peace. They were to stand in front of the welcoming Seouls.
Trump was to be officially greeted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and an entourage of politicians, top brass and bureaucrats and led to the podium for a brief speech or two. Before that could take place, just after Trump accepted the flowers from the cute kids to thunderous applause, there was a break in the crowd as the fans jostled for a closer look. The kids were in the path of the eager crowd and Trump moved to shield them. That’s when it must have happened, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told a stunned press conference in Washington, just 24 hours later.
Someone – or maybe more than one – had managed to touch the President in the short ruckus, just enough to transfer the deadly nerve agent that killed him. President Trump died within 10 hours. Vice President Mike Pence was to be sworn in as President the following day, shortly after the global press conference.
Needless to say, the news unleashed everyone with an internet account, as well as the professional commentariat. Who done it? All the suspects had motives ….
North Korea – this was the dastardly plan all along. Trump was a real threat, the sanctions were crippling. Use the experience gained with half-brother Jong-nam, poisoned at Kuala Lumpur airport. Lure Trump to meet, lull him (and most others) into a false sense of security, showing willingness to do a deal. Smile a lot. Be charming. Be publicly devastated by the assassination. The world will think Russia did it.
Russia – use the experience gained with deadly nerve agents. Allowing the US and the Koreans to unite and isolate Russia from Kim was never going to happen. Trump would be sucking all the international kudos from the global atmosphere, expending his influence and his irritating ability to smile at the Kremlin while putting the sanctions knife deep into Russia’s hip pocket. The world will think China did it.
China – a peace deal under their noses, which they could not engineer over decades, meant losing face to both the Koreans and the Americans; that was never going to happen. A robust secret service active in Seoul (foreign soil); a deadly nerve agent that implicates other State actors; a globally televised destruction of the peace plan … irresistible. The world will think Iran did it.
Iran – the risk of peace with North Korea threatens the (open) secret North Korean / Iran nuclear cooperation program, and perhaps even revealing aspects of it that would be highly damaging to Iran. It cannot be allowed to happen. It is also an opportunity to get rid of Israel’s staunchest champion, another threat to Iran’s plans. This, too, cannot be allowed to happen. The world will think Russia did it.
American rogue actors – the mother of all conspiracy theories quickly gained currency; the deep, irrational hatred of Trump among most Democrats and especially the unhinged Democrats coalesced around the plot; the Washington establishment (aka the Swamp) and the now clearly biased leadership in security agencies were facing an existential threat from Trump. They had begun planning the hit, speculation had it, as soon as the meeting was on the cards. Previous poison assassinations by foreign States had set the template and provided the blame point. The world will think someone else did it.
The world was on edge, staring into a future suddenly without Donald Trump. Nobody knew where that would lead, how the vacuum would be filled … it was a worst case scenario.