(CNSNews.com) – Sometime in the next 20 or so days North Korea is expected to declare its stance on denuclearization diplomacy with the United States. Ahead of that announcement, officials in the Stalinist regime appear to be reverting to their practice of insulting President Trump.
In a speech last spring, Kim Jong Un set a year-end deadline for the U.S. to make a “bold decision” that shows a willingness to change its approach. The deadline sparked concerns that he may decide to resume nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests after a two-year suspension.
This week senior officials in the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) stepped up their criticism of the U.S., evidently angered by recent comments by Trump, and the issue of condemnation at the U.N. of human rights abuses in North Korea.
On the sidelines of the NATO summit in London earlier this month, Trump recalled a term he has used in the past in reference to Kim Jong Un.
“He definitely likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he?” Trump said. “That’s why I call him ‘rocket man.’”
Light-hearted the nickname may be – and Trump used it while stressing his “very good personal relationship” with Kim – but Pyongyang did not take it well.
In a statement later that day, North Korea’s vice foreign minister for U.S. affairs noted that Kim’s year-end deadline was approaching and said it was “entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get.”
Two days later the regime’s first vice foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, said in reference to the “rocket man” comment, “If such phrases emerge once again and they are once again confirmed to be a calculated provocation of the U.S. against us, we will also start harsh language against the U.S. to counter it.”
And, in a reminder of the “harsh language” the regime resorted to in the past, she added that if words are used by the U.S. again to stoke an “atmosphere of confrontation,” that should be diagnosed as a “relapse of the dotage of a dotard.”
In a comparatively mild-worded tweet at the weekend, Trump said, “Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way.”
Trump told reporters at the White House Sunday that he would be surprised if Kim Jong Un acted in a hostile manner.
“He knows I have an election coming up. I don’t think he wants to interfere with that, but we’ll have to see,” he said.
But on Monday, the regime escalated the rhetoric:
First, the vice-chairman of the WPK’s central committee, Ri Su Yong, said Trump’s words reveal that he “feels fear” ahead of Kim Jong Un’s upcoming announcement.
“Trump would be well advised to quit abusive language which may further offend the chairman,” added Ri, in comments released by the regime’s official KCNA news agency.
Then Kim Yong Chol, a U.S.-sanctioned general sometimes referred to as the dictator’s right-hand man, weighed in.
In his capacity as chairman of the WPK-affiliated “Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee” he accused Trump of using “inappropriate and highly risky words and expressions” despite Pyongyang’s earlier warning.
Trump has continued to “let out loads of words and expressions with implicit threat,” said Kim Yong Chol, citing the president’s weekend comments.
“Such remarks make us disappointed. This certainly proves that Trump is an old man bereft of patience. We can read how irritated he is now. As he is such a heedless and erratic old man, the time when we cannot but call him a ‘dotard’ may come again.”
Kim Yong Chol noted that Kim Jong Un has not – “yet” – responded in kind to Trump.
“But if Trump continues to go this way, our chairman’s understanding of him may change.”
Human rights tensions
Every December since 2005, the U.N. General Assembly has passed a resolution condemning systemic, widespread and grave rights violations in North Korea. When passed by a recorded vote, the text has seen a handful of repressive regimes – typically including countries like China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, Sudan, Syria and Venezuela – vote “no” while dozens of others abstain.
Pyongyang has reacted badly to the annual move, accusing the U.S. of orchestrating it – even when E.U. countries or other democracies have been the sponsors.
The regime in 2005 likened the measure to the “barking of a dog at the moon,” and in 2009 it accused the sponsors of “subservience and sycophancy” to the U.S.
This year it has called the soon-to-be-adopted resolution proof that the U.S. remains “obsessed with inveterate repugnancy towards our idea and system.” (The U.S. is among its sponsors this year.)
Ahead of the vote on that measure the U.S., which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council his month, is convening a council meeting on Wednesday focused on North Korea, including recent short-range missile launches.
Earlier, the administration came under fire after reportedly not backing calls by other council members for a meeting on Tuesday – Human Rights Day – specifically on North Korean human rights. Pyongyang had warned that it would view a council meeting on human rights violations a “serious provocation.”
In an attempt to resolve the longstanding nuclear standoff, Trump held summits with Kim in Singapore in June 2018 and in Hanoi last February, and the two met again briefly in the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas last June. The diplomatic process has largely stalled, however.