Recent developments reaffirm the argument that the North Korea crisis has been magnified by the personalities and rhetoric of two key men -- Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un.
The latest game of chicken was started by the US president, who vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea if the US was forced to defend itself or its allies against the North. He also used a derogatory nickname for the North Korean leader, calling him “a rocket man on a suicide mission.”
By now, the world knows what kind of a man Trump is and what language he uses, but few expected him to make such a statement on the podium of the United Nations.
The leader of the world’s most powerful country used his maiden speech at the world body to threaten to annihilate a country of 25 million people whose leader he once said would meet with over hamburger.
There is no doubt that all efforts must be mustered to end the North’s nuclear and missile menace, but what Trump said at the UN should have been limited to closed-door discussions with his closest aides.
That fault, however, does not justify Kim ratcheting up his belligerent rhetoric. Just one day after the US president made the UN address, Kim issued a statement to warn of “exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hardline countermeasure in history.”
“Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation. I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire,” Kim said.
Kim did not indicate what would be his next action, but his foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, said in New York that it could be test of the most powerful-yet hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean. It is not hard to guess that Ri was following up on Kim’s statement on orders from Pyongyang.
Usually, the use of tough rhetoric and even foul language is part of the communist regime’s propaganda activity that aims to enhance internal unity against potential outside security threats. Kim may well have wanted to show that he is a man who can stand up to the leader of the world’s most powerful country.
Whatever the motives behind the tough-worded statement may be, it won’t be easy to stop North Korea from carrying out its provocations. Kim made it clear that “the path I chose is correct and that it is the one I have to follow to the last.”
This calls on the international community to put up further pressure against the Kim regime. The new US sanctions announced by Trump following his UN speech was timely in that regard.
The executive order significantly expands US authorities to target individuals, companies, financial institutions that finance and facilitate trade with North Korea.
Most of all, the order enhances the Treasury Department’s authority to target any individual or entity that conducts “significant” trade in goods, services or technology with the North.
The order also targets North Korea’s shipping and trade networks by banning vessels and aircraft that have visited North Korea from visiting the US within 180 days.
The fresh US sanctions follow the UN Security Council resolution 2375, adopted after the North’s sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3 and follow-up actions taken by an increasing number of UN members, including expulsion of North Korean diplomats.
Kim ought to look squarely at the international community’s determination. For his part, Trump may well stop exercising combative rhetoric -- he called Kim a “madman” in his latest tweet -- and behave in a way that fits the leader of the world’s most powerful country. Madman theory will never work with a man like Kim.