- Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
- North Korea is locked in a war of words with US President Donald Trump in which both sides have threatened nuclear war, and North Korean officials reportedly have been asking around to see if Trump is serious.
- The North Koreans have asked several US diplomats, journalists, and analysts for help on interpreting Trump’s statements.
- Only Trump really knows what he’s thinking about North Korea, and he contradicts himself all the time.
North Korea has diplomats across Europe and Russia asking US diplomats for insight into the most military-oriented US president they’ve seen, but above all, they seem to want to know whether Donald Trump is out of his mind.
“They want to know if he’s crazy, or if this is just an act,” Suzanne DiMaggio, a foreign-policy expert who conducts dialogues with North Korean officials, told Politico.
“They really want to know what is his endgame … They follow the news very closely; they watch CNN 24/7; they read his tweets and other things,” said DiMaggio.
DiMaggio joins the ranks of several other US citizens questioned by North Korean officials about Trump.
Pak Song Il, the North Korean official tasked with interpreting US politics, statements, and military posture, told the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos during a trip to Pyongyang that Trump had thrown him for a loop.
“When he speaks, I have to figure out what he means, and what his next move will be,” Pak said. “This is very difficult.”
“He might be irrational – or too smart. We don’t know,” Pak said.
“Their number-one concern is Trump,” an unnamed GOP analyst told Anna Fifield of The Washington Post, referring to North Korea. “They can’t figure him out.”
- KNS/AFP/Getty Images
It’s well known that the US wants North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions, but the North Koreans don’t appear to have any intention of meeting that demand. What remains unknown is at what point Trump may seek military action against the dangerous but outgunned country.
DiMaggio lamented that the Trump administration’s decision to decertify the Iran deal hurt US credibility in making deals with North Korea and that Trump’s often contradictory statements confused Pyongyang to the point that it couldn’t act.
But the answers the North Koreans seek just can’t be had. Only Trump speaks for himself, and his own opinions vacillate wildly. Trump contradicted his own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s efforts to talk to North Korea, calling it a waste of time.
After months of threats to “totally destroy” North Korea with “fire and fury,” Trump tweeted on Saturday that he would never call Kim Jong Un “short and fat” and that he hopes the two can be friends some day.