North Korea’s state media outlets do not appear to have softened their tone towards the United States, despite reports Tuesday that dictator Kim Jong-un would be open to discussing denuclearization with the Trump administration.
In articles published Monday and Tuesday, the North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun called U.S. President Donald Trump’s sanctions on the communist regime “despicable” and “gangster-like” while predicting that America itself “cannot escape doom.”
The latter claim – in an article aptly titled “The U.S. Cannot Escape Doom” – appeared in the publication Monday, as Kim hosted a dinner for a small delegation of South Korean envoys entrusted with setting the table for talks between Pyongyang and Washington, in addition to Pyongyang and Seoul. The article cited the instances of government shutdowns in the United States as a “laughing stock worldwide” that highlighted the “wretched plight” of the United States.
It appears to claim that a government shutdown is currently ongoing – it is not, though it may occur if the March 23 deadline for a budget is not met – and argues that “such case [sic] has become a commonplace [sic] under the Trump administration.”
“It is not fortuitous that those who advocated America’s hegemonism yesterday are concerned of its fate. The consecutive government shutdown heralds the tragic destiny of the imperialist boss,” the piece concludes.
On Tuesday, Rodong Sinmun followed up this piece with yet another outraged article on the state of U.S. sanctions on Pyongyang. “The recent despicable additional sanctions farce staged by the Trump group is a gangster-like act aimed to totally check the legitimate foreign trade of a sovereign state,” the piece argues, “and another vicious provocation violating the sovereignty and dignity of the DPRK.”
“The wild act of the Trump group is nothing but a last-ditch struggle of those who sustained a bitter defeat in the DPRK-U.S. decades-long nuclear standoff,” Rodong Sinmun concludes. The newspaper goes on to boast of North Korea’s alleged status as a “world-level military giant looked up by [sic] the world,” a sign the Kim regime may not yet be willing to give up its nuclear power.
In what some may interpret as a change of tone, it does not appear at press time that North Korean media have once again threatened a nuclear attack on U.S. soil. Pyongyang most recently threatened an “unimaginable strike at an unimaginable time” in October.
Yet Kim Jong-un has earned himself favorable headlines for indicating that the country may be interested in discussing denuclearization with the United States. South Korean newswire service Yonhap reports that Chung Eui-yong, one of five envoys South Korean President Moon Jae-in sent to Pyongyang this week, returned with plans for yet another inter-Korea summit and a message of openness from Kim.
“The North side clearly affirmed its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and said it would have no reason to possess nuclear weapons should the safety of its regime be guaranteed and military threats against North Korea removed,” Chung said, adding that North Korean officials were open to “candid” talks with the United States.
President Trump responded via Twitter on Tuesday.
“Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!” Trump wrote.
The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo suggests that one reason for the partial change in tone on the international stage, despite no visible change in belligerence from North Korean media, is that sanctions championed by the Trump administration are devastating the beleaguered North Korean economy.
According to the newspaper, North Korean exports to China, by far its largest trading partner, fell 37 percent last year, while imports remained the same, deepening a dangerous trade deficit for the North Korean economy. Citing Radio Free Asia, Chosun reports that “North Korean trading companies are frantically sending out staffers to China, Russia, Southeast Asia and Africa” in hopes of reversing the “unprecedented” trend.