In an interview with the Wall Street Journal yesterday, President Donald Trump said that he believes he and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un have developed a good relationship, and Trump suggests that he is open to diplomacy.
Tensions have been high for months over North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program. Both leaders have delivered slews of insults against one another. Trump has referred to Kim as a “maniac”, “bad dude”, and even referred to him as “rocket man”. Mr. Kim has threatened back to “tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire,” referring to President Trump.
However, in yesterday’s interview with WSJ, Trump said, “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un.”
Additionally, the President commented, “I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.”
Though he declined to comment, in this specific interview, on whether or not he has spoken with Kim Jong-un, Trump said in his speech at Camp David, “I always believe in talking.”
Trump explained that his own comments, though abrasive and seemingly pointless, are part of a broader strategy. “You’ll see that a lot with me,” Trump said about his own harshly-worded tweets, “and then all of the sudden, somebody’s my best friend. I could give you 20 examples. You could give me 30. I’m a very flexible person.”
According to Gerald F. Seib, the Wall Street Journal’s Executive Washington Editor, Trump’s positive outlook on his relationship with Kim signal three things: firstly that international tensions with North Korea are subsiding; second that the U.S. is showing no evidence of a divide with South Korea; and third that the possibility of military action is gone but is also not imminent.
Formal talks between the United States and North Korea have been stalled since 2009 when disputes over North Korea’s nuclear and military activities rose. These talks have not only stalled with North Korea and the U.S., but other parties involved as well, including South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia.
Diplomats say there have been informal talks via unofficial channels, but these are not considered official diplomatic communications.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson commented simply on the matter, “We have lines of communication to Pyongyang—we’re not in a dark situation, a blackout.”
Some U.S. and allied officials expressed concern that North Korea’s new openness to communication was a ploy to divide the U.S. and South Korea. Some believe that it may be designed to lower tension with South Korea, such that they would, in the future, thwart any military moves by the United States against North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities.
“If I were them, I would try,” Trump said about the suspicions of North Korea’s intent in opening communication. “The difference is I’m president, other people aren’t. And I know more about wedges than any human being that’s lived.”
To send “a good message to North Korea,” as President Trump puts it, additional military exercises, the U.S. and South Korea agree, are to be postponed until after February’s Winter Olympics in Seoul.