North Korea is protesting annual joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises this week with predictably hyperbolic flair. But amid the threats and insults (South Korea's defense chief is President Trump's “puppy”) came one indication that the leadership is as intrigued and confounded by Trump's musings on Twitter as everyone else.
Hours after Trump declared that North Korea is “starting to respect us,” North Korea’s state organ KCNA said Trump regularly posts “weird articles of his ego-driven thoughts in his Twitter” and “spouts rubbish to make his assistants have a hard time.”
The pronouncement Wednesday didn't make much of a splash in Washington, but it echoes criticism of Trump from Democrats and Republicans alike. Trump has resisted all calls to give up his Twitter habit or allow his staff to filter posts that frequently levy insults and lay blame against those who Trump claims are thwarting him.
For allies and adversaries alike, Trump's tweets are a view into his motivations and grievances like none they have ever had with a U.S. leader. Trump's exaggerations and bluster on Twitter pale in comparison with official pronouncements from Pyongyang, but serve a similar purpose to propaganda from official North Korean media.
During his rambling campaign rally Tuesday night in Phoenix, Trump had appeared to take credit for rattling Pyongyang and instilling “respect” in bellicose leader Kim Jong Un.
“You see what's going on in North Korea,” Trump said. “All of a sudden, I don't know, who knows, but I can tell you, what I said, that's not strong enough. Some people said it was too strong. It's not strong enough.”
That was an apparent reference to Trump's recent threat of “fire and fury” if North Korea continued to threaten the United States and its allies.
The KCNA diagnosis of Trump as a “mad guy” who rants online also followed rare words of praise for Pyongyang from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“I think it is worth noting that we have had no missile launches or provocative acts on the part of North Korea since the unanimous adoption of the U.N. Security Council Resolution” condemning North Korea this month, Tillerson said Tuesday.
“I want to take note of that; I want to acknowledge it. I am pleased to see that the regime in Pyongyang has certainly demonstrated some level of restraint that we’ve not seen in the past,” Tillerson continued.
“We hope that this is the beginning of this signal that we’ve been looking for that they are ready to restrain their level of tensions, they’re ready to restrain their provocative acts, and that perhaps we are seeing our pathway to sometime in the near future having some dialogue.”