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President Trump says Kim Jong Un issued ‘a small apology’ for recent missile tests
President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday that he received a three-page letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in which the dictator issued a “small apology” for his nation’s recent missile tests.
….also a small apology for testing the short range missiles, and that this testing would stop when the exercises end. I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un in the not too distant future! A nuclear free North Korea will lead to one of the most successful countries in the world!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 10, 2019
It was not clear whether Trump was saying that he agreed with Kim that the joint exercises between the U.S. and South Korea were “ridiculous and expensive” or just relaying that Kim had characterized them that way.
But even as Trump shared Kim’s apology, North Korea continued Saturday to test short-range missiles, Fox News reports. According to South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff, the test airstrikes came from the North’s east coast and landed in the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan.
Kim Jong Un feels threatened
It’s clear that Kim feels threatened by the joint U.S.–South Korean military exercises taking place this month. The North Korean dictator has said that the exercises forced him to “develop, test, and deploy the powerful physical means essential for national defense.”
Even the much-scaled-down exercises planned for August have been a major bone of contention between the U.S. and North Korea, with Reuters reporting just two days ago that Kim said he would not resume talks with the U.S. unless the joint exercises were canceled.
But Trump’s report of the letter shows that Kim is already looking past the exercises and wants to resume talks with Washington. For his part, Trump called the letter “beautiful” and indicated that he was more than willing to resume talks with Kim.
Reaching an impasse
The relationship between the two world leaders has been full of ups and downs since Trump took office, beginning with threats of “fire and fury” from Trump early on that quickly turned into Trump praising Kim to the point of being criticized for his “flattery” of the fellow leader.
Friendly summits in 2018 and 2019 seemed to hit an impasse earlier this year, with North Korea reluctant to denuclearize until sanctions against it are lifted. The U.S. says it will lift sanctions, but not without strong commitments and a solid plan for denuclearization first.
Getting beyond the impasse will be tricky, and Trump’s usual slapping-on of tariffs or sanctions may not be all that effective with a country that has suffered under sanctions for a long time already.
It seems that Trump is trying to appeal to Kim’s vanity by complimenting him, but all the flattery in the world may not get the Korean leader to give up the nukes that — paired with his huge, obedient ground army — make him feel invulnerable to attacks from his enemies.
Reunification efforts with South Korea are another method that may effectively check North Korea’s power and help Pyongyang come to an agreement with the U.S. While Trump and Kim may never be bosom buddies, maybe they can at least solve their diplomacy problems and get back on track there.
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