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Jacob Fromer is NK News's Washington DC correspondent. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday called out “Mr. Chairman” Kim Jong Un on Twitter, urging the North Korean leader to “act quickly” to get a deal done as he is the “only one” who can deliver what Pyongyang needs.
President Trump’s overture to the DPRK leader, which appeared to be his first public outreach to Kim Jong Un since August, follows weeks of increasing tensions, insults, and threats between Washington and Pyongyang over nuclear negotiations, sanctions relief, and military drills.
It also comes just days after North Korean state media published a scathing essay that described former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden — widely considered one of Trump’s most formidable opponents in next year’s presidential election — as a “rabid dog.”
Trump’s tweet made direct reference to the “rabid dog” comment while drawing a contrast between himself and one of his top political rivals.
“Mr. Chairman, Joe Biden may be Sleepy and Very Slow, but he is not a ‘rabid dog,'” Trump wrote on his Twitter account.
Trump’s tweet was sent as a reply to another post by an anchor on the right-wing One America News Network, who had highlighted an article about the “rabid dog” comment in the UK’s The Sun newspaper.
At a fundraiser over the weekend, Biden told a crowd that he took the insult as a compliment, and referred to Kim Jong Un as a “thug.”
“He is actually somewhat better than that,” the President said Sunday, “but I am the only one who can get you where you have to be.”
“You should act quickly, get the deal done,” Trump wrote. “See you soon!”
It is unclear what, exactly, “the deal” means in this context, though it is likely a reference to now-stalled negotiations between American and North Korean diplomats over sanctions relief and the fate of the DPRK’s nuclear program.
Top diplomats from Washington and Pyongyang met in Sweden early last month in an attempt to come to an agreement about these issues — or at least start a conversation about how to get there — but ended up walking away after 8.5 hours without a deal and with open disagreement about which side was to blame.
The two countries have not yet announced a date for any future diplomatic talks, and it is as yet unclear if they will happen.
Trump’s tweet to Kim Jong Un also came just hours after the Pentagon announced that it would postpone long-planned, annual military exercises with South Korea that were set to begin this month — exercises that Pyongyang deplores and has long demanded the two allies stop.
“We have made this decision as an act of goodwill to contribute to an environment conducive to diplomacy and the advancement of peace,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper told reporters earlier on Sunday.
According to one expert, the U.S. President’s latest outreach to Kim Jong Un may be a sign that more diplomacy, or even another presidential meeting, is on the way — but that doesn’t necessarily mean a good deal is in store for Washington.
“Perhaps someone should tell the president that dealing with a brutal, nuclear-armed danger to regional and international security via Twitter may not be wise,” Evans Revere, a former Acting Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told NK News.
“I found the president’s statement, ‘I am the only one who can get you where you have to be,’ a puzzling and even troubling choice of words,” he said.
“From the U.S. perspective, where Kim Jong Un ‘has to be’ is on the road to denuclearization, and it is clear that isn’t going to happen, at least in response to the current U.S. policy approach.”
Within hours of the Pentagon announcing that it would postpone its next round of military exercises with South Korea — which Esper, the defense secretary insisted was not a “permanent concession” — Pyongyang had already moved on to another criticism of the U.S.: its support for a UN human rights resolution condemning North Korea last week.
In a statement published in the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) about the UN resolution, a DPRK foreign ministry spokesman said that the North has “no willingness to meet such dialogue partner.”
According to Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists and contributor to NK News’s sister site NK Pro, this may be a sign that Pyongyang is going to keep doing what it wants — whether the U.S. changes its plans or not.
“My sense with the recent North Korean statements, especially the one from the [State Affairs Commission] spokesman, is that Pyongyang’s mind might be made up on going ahead with whatever is planned ahead after their deadline,” Panda told NK News.
“Reacting poorly to the suspension of the drill suggests that to me,” he said.
Last week, a spokesman for the State Affairs Commission (SAC), the highest-ranking state organ in the DPRK government, warned of “shocking punishment” if the U.S. continues to provoke the North.
It is unclear what, in the mind of North Korean leadership, constitutes such a provocation — but that may be exactly the point.
“The president’s evident eagerness to engage with Kim Jong Un ‘soon’ suggests that Kim Jong Un’s tactic of putting pressure on the United States by issuing threats and establishing an arbitrary end-of-year deadline to force the United States to make concessions may be working,” Revere, the former State Department official, told NK News.
“As the president might say, ‘we’ll see what happens.'”
Additional reporting by Jeongmin Kim
Featured image: KCNA