North Korea-U.S. Relations
November 27, 2020

There's a reason why North Korea has remained quiet about the United States presidential election, The Associated Press reports.

South Korean lawmakers were briefed by the country's National Intelligence Service on Friday, and one of the issues reportedly addressed was Pyongyang's anxiety about the incoming Biden administration. The briefing's contents could not be independently verified by news organizations, but Seoul's spy agency alleges North Korea has ordered overseas diplomatic missions to refrain from provoking the U.S., reportedly warning its ambassadors there will be consequences should any of their acts or comments rattle folks in Washington.

One South Korean lawmaker said the NIS believes North Korea is nervous that the friendly relationship between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will be rendered moot when President-elect Joe Biden steps into the Oval Office in January, so the government apparently wants to ensure tensions remain relatively at ease for now. The NIS does expect North Korea will hold a military parade around the same time as Biden's inauguration as a show of force, although they've done so with Trump in office, as well. Read more at The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

October 10, 2020

During a pre-dawn military parade Saturday, North Korea unveiled what appeared to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile that's larger than any the country has rolled out before. The display was widely seen as an example of how President Trump's approach to denuclearization talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — which have fluctuated between intimidation and cordiality — haven't panned out over the years.

Arms control experts have said the images of the missile suggest it's big enough to carry multiple warheads, or perhaps a large thermonuclear one, but it's unclear if the ICBM is actually just for show since there's no indication it's been tested.

Either way, the unveiling appears to be a bold move that signals Kim wants to strengthen his nuclear arsenal amid stalled negotiations with Trump, though it will likely be considered less provocative because of the choice to reveal the weapons system during a parade rather than conducting an actual test. Tim O'Donnell

December 3, 2019

North Korea is warning the United States it will have to choose "what Christmas gift" it will get ahead of a year-end nuclear talks deadline.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has set a deadline for the end of the year for a breakthrough in nuclear talks, and after the U.S. postponed joint military exercises with South Korea as an "act of goodwill," North Korean Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan in November dismissed what he called U.S. attempts to "earn time, pretending it has made progress," adding "we are no longer interested in such talks that bring nothing to us" and "we will no longer gift the U.S. president with something he can boast of."

The country is now escalating that rhetoric as the deadline looms, with North Korea's Ri Thae Song calling U.S. messaging "nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the U.S.," The Associated Press reports. Ri also warned, "What is left to be done now is the U.S. option and it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get."

The Washington Post notes North Korea "has a history of timing launches with an eye on international developments and even U.S. holidays."

Talks between President Trump and Kim previously broke down at a summit in February, with Trump saying that "they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that." Working-level talks also broke down in October, AP notes, with North Korea blaming the U.S.' "old stance and attitude."

Meanwhile, Trump in London on Tuesday expressed confidence that Kim will denuclearize, the Post reports, while adding he "likes sending rockets up, doesn't he?" Brendan Morrow

November 18, 2019

Former White House National Security Adviser John Bolton told a group of bankers in Miami two weeks ago that his former boss President Trump "believes his personal chemistry with foreign leaders, including authoritarians like Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, means that the U.S. relationship with those countries is a positive one," Axios reported last week. If that's the case, America's relationship with North Korea is ... complicated.

Kim has set a year-end deadline for a breakthrough in the U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks, and Trump tweeted Sunday that Kim "should act quickly, get the deal done." U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday that the U.S. had indefinitely scrapped joint military exercises with South Korea as an "act of goodwill" toward Pyongyang to create space for diplomacy.

On Monday, North Korean Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan poured cold water on the Trump administration's outreach. "The U.S. only seeks to earn time, pretending it has made progress" with North Korea, he said. "We are no longer interested in such talks that bring nothing to us. As we have got nothing in return, we will no longer gift the U.S. president with something he can boast of."

North Korea has been ramping up its missile tests and publicizing its military drills. It's not clear what Kim is willing to put on the table, but along with suspending the joint military exercises with Seoul, Trump has asked Tokyo to pay four times as much to host U.S. troops in Japan and demanded that South Korea pay nearly five times as much, Foreign Policy and Reuters report. Bolton delivered the news in July.

"This kind of demand, not only the exorbitant number, but the way it is being done, could trigger anti-Americanism" in close allies, Bruce Klingner at the Heritage Foundation tells Foreign Policy. "If you weaken alliances, and potentially decrease deterrence and U.S. troop presence, that benefits North Korea, China, and Russia who see the potential for reduced U.S. influence and support for our allies." Peter Weber

August 10, 2019

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un isn't happy with the United States and South Korea, but he apparently doesn't blame President Trump.

North Korea reportedly fired two projectiles off its east coast on Saturday, its fifth such launch in recent weeks, including the second this week. South Korea's military believes the projectiles are short-range ballistic missiles, which, if confirmed, would be a breach of 11 United Nations Security Council resolutions. Analysts believe the recent tests are meant to serve as retaliation for a U.S.-South Korea joint military drill set to begin on Sunday, as well as leverage in bilateral talks with Washington.

As for Trump? Well, Kim is cool with him it seems.

In fact, the most recent launches occurred just hours after Trump said he received another "very beautiful letter" from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which prompted Trump to say he thinks "we'll have another meeting." The president then shed a little more light on their exchange Saturday in a pair of tweets. Trump also seems to want to do away with the joint exercises, which he called "ridiculous and expensive."

Kim also reportedly offered a "small apology" for the weapons tests and told Trump they'd stop once the exercises end. Tim O'Donnell

June 30, 2019

President Trump's surprise meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday has sparked a wide array of responses.

Many consider the event, during which Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to step foot on North Korean soil, another photo op or television ratings boost for the president, who, The Washington Post reports, has been criticized for emphasizing style over substance in his North Korea strategy. Trump's critics, therefore, see Sunday's meeting as little more than a way for Trump to exercise his prowess as a showman.

Trump has also faced continuous criticism for his penchant for speaking highly of Kim and reinforcing the idea that the two leaders have a strong relationship. But, others like Fox News' Tucker Carlson (who was reportedly at the DMZ with Trump), have praised the president for choosing the course of practicality. Carlson phoned in to Fox News on Sunday and called it "silly" for people to focus purely on North Korea's atrocities, while ignoring the larger picture.

"In the end, what matters is what's good for the United States," Carlson said, though he did call Kim's regime "monstrous" and "disgusting." But even those who agree with Carlson that diplomacy is superior to the alternative don't always appreciate the Trump administration's friendly tone toward Pyongyang. Tim O'Donnell

June 29, 2019

In a tweet on Saturday, President Trump invited North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to a brief meeting on the Korean Demilitarized Zone as part of his visit to Seoul where he is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Trump wrote that he wanted to shake Kim's hand and say hello.

"All I did was put out a feeler if he'd like to meet," Trump said, adding that Kim was "very receptive to the meeting." Indeed, North Korea said Trump's offer is a "very interesting suggestion."

Trump is also not worried that it would be a bad sign if Kim fails to meet him, CNN reports. "No, of course I thought of that," he said.

If the meeting does happen, it would be the third face-to-face meeting between the two leaders, who have attempted to negotiate North Korea's denuclearization process in the past. Their last meeting, which took place in Hanoi in February, ended abruptly without a deal. Tim O'Donnell

May 26, 2019

President Trump is not worried about North Korea, even though some of his "people" might be.

Trump on Sunday dismissed the idea he was concerned about North Korea's recent ballistic weapons tests in an early morning tweet from Tokyo. Trump wrote that he was not disturbed by the weapons testing, although others in his administration were. The Washington Post reports the tweet was a "direct rebuke" of national security adviser, John Bolton, who said on Saturday that North Korea's tests "no doubt" violated United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Trump said he has confidence North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "will keep his promise" to Trump, referring to an agreement between the two heads of state in which Kim said North Korea would not test intercontinental-range ballistic missiles — the recent tests were reportedly short-range missiles.

Trump also cited Kim's recent criticism of former Vice President Joe Biden, who could face off with Trump in the 2020 presidential election, as further reason to trust him. "Perhaps that's sending me a signal?" Trump wrote. Tim O'Donnell

See More Speed Reads