The war-of-words that spiraled into the collapse of the eagerly-anticipated summit in Singapore between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12,  began with a statement by the new national-security adviser, John Bolton, that the U.S.’s goal in North Korea was the “Libya model.”

Bolton may have been referring to the nuclear deal which saw the north African nation give up its weapons of mass destruction in exchange for sanctions relief but the Libya message was received badly in Pyongyang.

According to the New Yorker, Bolton, who had fallen foul of North Korean sensibilities in 2003 when he was the Under-Secretary of State for Arms Control at the State Department during the George W. Bush Administration, personally attacked Kim Jong Il—the current leader’s father—and condemned his rule a “hellish nightmare.” North Korea responded by calling Bolton “human scum.”

Further raising the specter of the uprising and bloody end of Muammar Gaddafi’s dictatorship was a high-stakes move against the mercurial North Koreans. Indeed, Libya under Gaddafi was one of the few foreign powers that the secretive Stalinist state could call a friend.

Mention of Libya and Kim and his apparatchiks in Pyongyang would have recalled the gory images beamed around the globe almost in real-time in October 2011. A disheveled Gaddafi was captured in his native Sirte by rebels fighters after his fleeing convoy was blasted from the air by U.S drones, remotely operated from a base outside Las Vegas.

They humiliated him in his death throes, including sodomizing him with a bayonet, as he pleaded, "What did I do to you?" They then paraded his corpse for days so the nation would believe he was dead.

Kim took power weeks after Gaddafi death. According to AP, North Korea sees Gaddafi death as a cautionary tale to, in part, justify its own nuclear development in the face of perceived U.S. threats.

Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, covered in blood Former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, covered in blood, is pulled from a truck by fighters in Sirte in this still image taken from video footage Oct. 20, 2011. Photo: REUTERS/Libyan TV via Reuters TV

Yet, despite what could be perceived as veiled threats that Kim could face the same ignominious end, President Trump doubled-down and again raised the “Libya model” last week.

“In Libya, we decimated that country,” Trump warned, adding that “that model would take place if we don’t make a deal [with North Korea], most likely.”

Finally, on Monday Vice-President Mike Pence again chose to play Libya hardball.

“There was some talk about the Libyan model last week, and, you know, as the President made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal,” Pence told Fox News. Pressed on whether his remark was intended as a threat, Pence replied, “Well, I think it’s more of a fact.”

This triggered an outpouring of rage and counter-threats from North Korea. In the North Korean statement that Trump cited, a top Foreign Ministry official referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a "political dummy" for his comments on the North and said it was up to the U.S. whether they will "meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown."

The aggression was met with Trump’s abrupt decision to cancel what would have been a historic summit in Singapore, though anxiety had also been mounting in White House over a perceived lack of intensity from the North Koreans in preparing for the meeting and setting an agenda.

In a formal letter to Kim released by the White House, Trump said he had been “very much looking forward” to meeting the North Korean leader.

But he wrote: “Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting.” Adding "You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used."

Trump declared that the meeting would not take place “for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world”.