President Trump has made a few friends around the world since taking office, but none are as “special” as Kim Jong-un, the murderous North Korean dictator with whom he has met three times, tweeted at repeatedly, and exchanged at least one piece of novelty-size correspondence. In recent weeks, however, their “love” has been tested. Promises have been broken, insults have been exchanged, threats have been lobbed. But the acrimony didn’t stop Trump from effectively canceling a United Nations Security Council conference on North Korea’s human rights abuses, refusing to sign a letter that would have allowed the conference to proceed.
North Korea — which is known for starving its citizens, jailing its citizens without cause, torture, and other atrocities — threatened last week that the conference would be tantamount to a “another serious provocation” to go along with America’s sanction-heavy policy toward the nation. Nevertheless, eight security council member states signed a letter of participation, one shy of the nine required for the conference to be held. The U.S. was expected to be the ninth signatory before the White House pulled out on Monday. The move is the latest instance of Trump cowing to the wishes of one of the world’s most notorious dictators, who has made clear he has no plans to denuclearize, despite the president’s love-blind insistence he will.
The pull-out comes as tension has tightened between the U.S. and North Korea. The latter nation recently resumed medium-range missile testing, and last week said it will send a “Christmas gift” to America in response to stalled negotiations. It’s “entirely up to the U.S.” what kind of “gift” it will receive, North Korea threatened.
When asked to respond, Trump touted his friendship with Kim. “My relationship with Kim Jong-un is really good, but that doesn’t mean he won’t abide by the agreement we signed,” the president said during a NATO conference in London. “I hope he lives up to the agreement, but we’re going to find out.”
“He definitely likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he?” Trump said. “That’s why I call him Rocket Man.”
North Korea was not happy, describing Trump dusting off the “Rocket Man” moniker as a way of “stoking the atmosphere of confrontation.” Considering the fragile nature of negotiations between the two nations, North Korea said, the comment “must really be diagnosed as the relapse of the dotage of a dotard.”
On Saturday, North Korea announced it would not consider denuclearizing as part of negotiations with the U.S. A day later, the nation announced it had just conducted a a “very important test” at one of its long-range sites. Trump took the opportunity to lecture Kim on Twitter, writing that he wouldn’t dare “void his special relationship with the President of the United States.”
….with the U.S. Presidential Election in November. North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, has tremendous economic potential, but it must denuclearize as promised. NATO, China, Russia, Japan, and the entire world is unified on this issue!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2019
North Korea responded to the tweets on Monday by calling Trump a “heedless and erratic old man,” while arguing that the comments represented “corroboration that he feels fear” of a potential North Korean attack.
Effectively canceling the U.N.’s conference on North Korea’s human-rights abuses is a sign the nation’s intimidation tactics are working on the president, who appears poised to do whatever it takes to earn another “beautiful” letter from his authoritarian friend.