By now, President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s war of words is a familiar tune, but many wonder whether their publicly exchanged insults — and in particular, those within Trump’s tweets — could actually start a war. As it turns out, according to Suzanne DiMaggio (a member of a non-partisan think tank who has recently engaged in back-channel discussions with multiple senior North Korean officials), Pyongyang is fascinated with Trump, and leaders want to know why he acts and thinks the way he does.
Indeed, no one can deny that America has never had a president quite like Trump. And North Korea is used to “crazy” leaders, but they’re not sure how to interpret Trump’s unpredictable maneuvers and manner of speech. In a new Politico feature, DiMaggio reveals how Pyongyang analyzes Trump’s tweets and can’t figure out whether he’s faking his dramatic flair and why he undermines his secretary of state’s efforts:
“I think they really want to know what is his end game. They want to know if he’s crazy, or if this is just an act. Is this a good cop/bad cop that he’s doing with Tillerson? These are the sorts of questions that they have. They follow the news very closely; they watch CNN 24/7; they read his tweets and other things. So, they’re very much attuned to what he’s doing, what he’s saying. They’ve certainly been following what he’s doing in Asia. They’ll probably even have more questions after this Asia trip.”
The Politico piece also functions as a discussion with John Witt, a John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies scholar, who points out that North Koreans are perceived worldwide as not only “crazy” but “reckless,” yet they’re bewildered while trying to understand “how to deal with” Trump. Lately, Kim Jong-un has tabled the insults in exchange for eerie indifference, which is an unsettling development. After all, the North Korean foreign ministry has already accused Trump of declaring war within a speech, so the idea of boots on the ground is something they’re probably keeping close to their sleeve, so to speak.
In related news, North Korea has fired off a letter to the United Nations secretary-general. In the note, North Korea’s UN Ambassador Ja Song Nam accuses the U.S. of creating “the worst ever situation” by stationing three U.S. aircraft carriers in the waters surrounding the Korean Peninsula.