The joy of Kim Jong Un is you never know which North Korean dictator you’re going to get. Is it going to be conciliatory Kim? Is it going to be the bellicose little dictator, threatening to fire missiles off of the shores of Guam? You never quite know.
At least for the moment, we’re dealing with bad Kim.
The North Koreans aren’t particularly happy that they’re not getting what they want in terms of nuclear disarmament talks. According to the U.K. Guardian, since the failure of the second summit between President Donald Trump and Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam, back in February 2018, the North Koreans have wanted either more concessions from the United States or fewer denuclearization demands.
The Trump administration, meanwhile, has held fast to the demand they made back in Vietnam in February of last year: North Korea needs to completely dismantle its atomic program.
Since nothing’s changed, Kim decided he’s going to do a bit of holiday-themed saber-rattling.
Deputy Foreign Minister Ri Thae Song said in a statement that “it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get.”
That kind of language, experts say, has been used before when North Korea is about to resume or cross a boundary in terms of missile testing — in this case, almost certainly the resumption of long-distance missile testing.
Ri also warned that the “year-end time limit” set for concessions from the United States is “drawing nearer.”
“The dialogue touted by the U.S. is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK [North Korea] bound to dialogue and use it in favour of the political situation and election in the U.S.,” Ri said.
At the NATO summit outside of London on Tuesday, several reporters asked Trump questions about Kim, including one who said “you’ve met with Kim Jong Un three times now, and yet he continues to build his nuclear program and test his missiles. So what more will it take?”
While Trump said that he didn’t necessarily know that Kim was building his nuclear program or testing missiles and that “we’d be in a World War Three right now” if we’d followed President Barack Obama’s strategy, he made an appeal that Kim will likely understand: an appeal to military strength.
“Hey, look — we are more powerful, militarily, than we ever have been,” Trump said.
”And I will tell you, when I took over the United States military, when I became commander-in-chief, our military was depleted, our military was in trouble. You know that better than anybody.
“We had old planes; we had old everything. We didn’t have ammunition. Now we have the most powerful military we’ve ever had and we’re by far the most powerful country in the world. And, hopefully, we don’t have to use it, but if we do, we’ll use it. If we have to, we’ll do it.
“But, you know, my relationship with Kim Jong Un is really good, but that doesn’t mean he won’t abide by the agreement we signed. You have to understand. You have to go and look at the first agreement that we signed. It said he will denuclearize. That’s what it said. I hope he lives up to the agreement, but we’re going to find out.”
???? — President Trump Threatens North Korea: “if we have to use US military might we’ll use it, I hope Kim (Jong Un) lives up to the denuclearisation agreement but we’ll see” pic.twitter.com/IOAiartv7R
— ®️BELAAZ (@TheBelaaz) December 3, 2019
Now, of course, a bit of this is the old Trump hyperbole; the military, although depleted, did have ammunition. However, the basic premise of it remains solid: The United States is a lot more powerful than North Korea is.
Yes, North Korea has the ability to engage in asymmetrical fear-mongering. The question is whether or not it works. Any sort of actual engagement will end in the destruction of North Korea. Missile testing will bring nothing but more sanctions and more encirclement.
North Korea might believe it has a “gift” for the United States if they don’t play ball. I would make a joke that Pyongyang will end up with coal in its stocking, but that’s the thing: Coal might be the one thing it ends up needing. If things go south, North Korea is going to be looking for any sort of fuel.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.