North Korea is expected to test another long-range ballistic missile on or before this coming Tuesday, U.S. analysts and a Russian lawmaker have predicted.
Monday is the anniversary of Pyongyang's original nuclear weapons test in 2006, and Tuesday commemorates the 1945 establishment of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea. "North Koreans always have a good sense of timing," former CIA analyst Sue Mi Terry told VOA. "Kim Jong Un will show that he lives up to his 'Rocket Man' billing."
The Kim Jong Un regime "gave us mathematical calculations that they believe prove that their missile can hit the west coast of the United States," reported Anton Morozov, a Russian member of parliament on the lower house's international affairs committee, in comments published Friday. "As far as we understand, they intend to launch one more long-range missile in the near future," he added. "And in general, their mood is rather belligerent." Bonnie Kristian
On Sunday, President Trump publicly undercut Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is in Asia, by tweeting that he should stop "wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man," North Korea's Kim Jong Un, adding: "Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!" A few hours later, he tweeted: "Being nice to Rocket Man hasn't worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won't fail." Kim, 33, assumed power in 2011, so Trump was presumably including his father and grandfather as "Rocket Man."
There are several theories on Trump's motive for undercutting Tillerson and implying certain military action. Trump was "privately described by advisers as furious" at Tillerson for contradicting his public position on talks with Pyongyang, The New York Times reports, but Trump also "could be attempting his own version of Richard M. Nixon's 'madman' theory, casting himself as trigger-happy to bolster the bargaining power of his aides." Unfortunately, in this case, "a misreading of North Korea could result in an atmospheric nuclear test or an artillery barrage against Seoul," the Times notes, and "Kim likes to play madman as well."
Jonathan Swan at Axios recounts Trump's use of the "madman" theory, in a meeting where Trump told U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer not to tell Seoul his timeline for saving a free trade deal. "You don't tell them they've got 30 days," Trump reportedly said. "You tell them, 'This guy's so crazy he could pull out any minute.'"
There's also the related theory that Trump intended this "as a good-cop, bad-cop strategy, but the tweet is so over the top that it undercuts Tillerson," former CIA Korea analyst Sue Mi Terry tells the Times. Trump made a violent confrontation more likely when he ignored the advice from his national security aides and personalized the dispute with Kim, said The New Yorker's Evan Osnos. "By extending the taunts to his own secretary of state, Trump might imagine that he is playing the bad cop to Tillerson's good cop," but this "ham-fisted effort to make Pyongyang more pliable to Tillerson's entreaties" just gave Pyongyang reason to ignore Tillerson. "This is not a police procedural," Osnos adds. Peter Weber
President Trump again referred to Kim Jong Un as "Little Rocket Man" in a tweet Saturday night, the third iteration of the president's favorite new insult in his war of words with the North Korean leader:
Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
On Thursday and Friday, Kim and Trump labeled each other a "mentally deranged U.S. dotard" and "madman," respectively. Trump previously used "Rocket Man" during his United Nations speech Tuesday and at an Alabama campaign rally Friday.
The Saturday tweet came several hours after a group of U.S. bombers and fighter escorts flew well north of the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, staying over international waters but making a clear show of force toward Pyongyang. The Pentagon characterized the flight as a demonstration "that the president has many military options to defeat any threat."
Late Thursday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded to President Trump's threat on Tuesday to "totally destroy North Korea" with a very rare personal statement saying Trump's "unprecedented rude nonsense" has "convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last." The statement, released by the official Korean Central News Agency, is full of colorful phrases — Kim calls Trump "a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire," for example — and ends with Kim's own threat to "surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U. S. dotard with fire."
Hours after the statement was released, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters at the United Nations that Pyongyang is considering testing a hydrogen bomb. "It could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific," Ri said, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. "We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un." Earlier on Thursday, Ri had mocked Trump as a "dog barking" and laughed off his "Rocket Man" nickname for Kim, and Trump had signed new financial penalties for North Korea.
If you are wondering what "dotard" means, you're not alone — "searches for 'dotard' are high as a kite," Merriam-Webster tweeted Thursday night, defining the word as someone in "a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness"; according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "dotard" now means "an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile," after earlier referring to an "imbecile." (You can read a longer history of the word at The Washington Post.) Peter Weber
Trump to sign executive order allowing the Treasury Department to target companies, individuals that trade with North Korea
President Trump announced a new executive order on Thursday that will allow the Treasury Department to target companies and individuals that trade with North Korea, CNN reports. "It is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal rogue regime," Trump said during a press conference with the leaders of Japan and South Korea.
The order will allow Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin "discretion to target any foreign bank knowingly facilitating specific transactions tied to trade with North Korea," Trump said.
Trump also praised Chinese President Xi Jinping's decision to limit financial relations with North Korea through Chinese banks as being "very bold" and "unexpected," The Washington Post reports. "I must tell you this is a complete denuclearization of North Korea that we seek," Trump added.
Earlier in the week, Trump told the United Nations General Assembly that he might "totally destroy" North Korea if Pyongyang continues to menace the United States and its allies. Trump has also warned that "talking is not the answer" for dealing with the regime earlier this month. However, when asked at Thursday's press conference if a dialogue with North Korea is still possible, CNN reports that Trump answered: "Why not?"
Watch Trump's comments below. Jeva Lange
JUST IN: Trump signs order to "target individuals, companies, financial institutions that finance and facilitate trade with North Korea" pic.twitter.com/CQ71vA37Qs
— CNN International (@cnni) September 21, 2017
"If we were asked to join talks, I would say yes immediately," Merkel said, highlighting the Iran nuclear deal as a good if difficult model to follow. "I could imagine such a format for the settlement of the North Korean conflict," Merkel explained. "Europe and, in particular, Germany should be ready to contribute a very active part."
The Iran deal offered sanctions relief in exchange for strict limits on nuclear development. It could not be duplicated exactly with North Korea — Pyongyang has the bomb; Tehran does not — but it could provide a framework for progress beyond the current cycle of stalemate, threats, and provocation.
Merkel's comments come as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un celebrates his nuclear arsenal with a lavish party while the United Nations Security Council prepares to vote on a new round of punitive sanctions. Bonnie Kristian
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threw a lavish party to celebrate his country's nuclear scientists on the 69th anniversary of the founding of the Kim regime on Saturday. State media reported the event included a banquet, live entertainment, and photo opportunities with Kim.
"The recent test of the H-bomb is the great victory won by the Korean people at the cost of their blood while tightening their belts in the arduous period," Kim said at the party, referring to Pyongyang's recent claim to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.
The United States has asked the United Nations Security Council to hold a vote Monday to approve a new round of sanctions against North Korea in retaliation for Pyongyang's recent claim to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.
— US Mission to the UN (@USUN) September 8, 2017
The new sanctions would cut off oil imports into North Korea, ban North Korean textile and labor exports, and impose a travel ban and asset freeze on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. North Korean ally China, which has a permanent seat on the council, could veto the sanctions, but it supported major export sanctions the U.N. levied against Pyongyang in August. Bonnie Kristian