The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump’s year of taunting, teasing and threatening Kim Jong Un

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images; KCNA via KNS)

In this occasional series, we will bring you up to speed on the biggest national security stories of the week.

Relations between the United States and North Korea got off to a rocky start this year. After fireworks lit up the night sky in Pyongyang, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced in a televised speech that the United States is within a “nuclear striking range” and the regime's nuclear forces are "a reality."

Dressed in a contemporary gray suit that matched his tie, Kim declared: “The U.S. should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my table,” according to a translation by the Associated Press.

Since stepping into his role after his father died in 2011, Kim typically gives a New Year's speech in which he addresses reconciliation with South Korea, improving the living standards of North Koreans and perceived Western aggression against his country. But last year was an astounding year for North Korea's advancement of its nuclear weapons program. The country launched several intercontinental ballistic missiles and conducted its most powerful nuclear test in September. Its most recent ICBM launch was in November, when the Hwasong-15 flew 10 times higher than the International Space Station, eventually crashing in the Sea of Japan.

Strolling down the red carpet at his New Year's Eve party, President Trump was asked by a reporter about his reaction to Kim's “button” comments. Trump kept his response short: “We'll see. We'll see,” he said.

But on Tuesday, Trump turned his attention back on Kim, tweeting: “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” (In fact, Trump doesn't have a button. Rather, there's a nuclear “football,” carried by a military officer, that follows Trump wherever he goes.)

The barbs between Trump and Kim are nothing new. Here are the most notable from 2017:

Jan. 1: During his annual address, Kim says North Korea is in the “final stages” of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Jan. 2: Trump, still weeks from his inauguration, tweets: “North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!”

Feb. 12: North Korea tests a midrange ballistic missile in its first challenge to the Trump administration.

March 2: In an interview with the Financial Times, Trump warns that the United States will take unilateral action against North Korea if China doesn't step up to help.

March 5: North Korea launches four missiles. North Korea said its military units tasked with striking U.S. bases in Japan were involved in the test launch.

March 6:  The United States calls North Korea “a pariah” and reaffirms its commitment to allies.

March 12: North Korea test fires four ballistic missiles.

March 18: North Korea conducts a rocket engine test.

April 4: North Korea fires a ballistic missile.

April 11: Trump tweets“North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”

April 12: Trump says a powerful “armada” of naval vessels is heading to the Korean Peninsula. That proves to be misleading.

April 13: Trump tells the Wall Street Journal that the North Korea nuclear issue is more complicated than he thought.

April 16: North Korea test fires a missile, but it fails.

April 28: Approaching his 100th day in office, Trump tells Reuters a “major, major” conflict with North Korea is possible but that he still seeks diplomacy.

May 1: In an interview with Bloomberg News, Trump says he would be “honored” to meet Kim “under the right circumstances.” “If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honored to do it,” Trump said. “If it’s under the, again, under the right circumstances. But I would do that.”

May 14: Kim celebrates the test of a ballistic missile. He's quoted by state media saying, “If the U.S. awkwardly attempts to provoke the DPRK, it will not escape from the biggest disaster in the history.” DPRK refers to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

May 23: The Post reports that Trump called Kim a “madman with nuclear weapons” during a phone conversation weeks prior with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Trump said: Kim's “rockets are crashing. That's the good news,” according to a transcript obtained by The Post.

June 30: In a show of solidarity alongside South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump denounces North Korea’s “reckless and brutal” regime.

July 4: North Korea launches a test of what appears to be an intercontinental missile.

Aug. 8: Trump warns North Korea that it will be met with “fire and fury” if it continues to threaten the United States. It is his harshest language yet against the regime.

Aug. 9: North Korea responds by saying it is reviewing plans to target the U.S. territory of Guam. “The nuclear war hysteria of the U.S. authorities including Trump has reached an extremely reckless and rash phase for an actual war,” said KCNA, North Korea's official state media.

Aug. 10: Trump escalates his rhetoric, saying his earlier statement may not have been “tough enough.”

Aug. 29: North Korea launches a ballistic missile. In response, Trump says “all options are on the table.”

Aug. 30: “Talking is not the answer!” Trump tweets as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis meets with South Korea’s defense minister at the Pentagon. Mattis tells reporters: “We’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”

Sept. 14: North Korea test fires a missile.

Sept. 17: Trump taunts Kim on Twitter: “I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night. Asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!”

Sept. 22: Kim calls Trump a “mentally deranged dotard,” prompting the public to search for the definition of the archaic insult.

Sept. 23: Trump tweets: “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!”

Sept. 19: Speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, Trump threatens to “totally destroy North Korea” and says “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself.”

Oct. 1: Trump sends two tweets. One at 9:30 a.m. EST, saying Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” and another at 2 p.m. saying he “won't fail” to rein in Kim.

Nov. 11: After reports surface that North Korean state media referred to Trump as a “lunatic old man,” Trump tweets: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?' Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend - and maybe someday that will happen!”

Nov. 29: North Korea launches an intercontinental ballistic missile called the Hwasong-15, which it claims can carry a “super large heavy warhead.”

Nov. 30: Trump condemns the test, telling reporters: “We will take care of it.” He later tweets: “After North Korea missile launch, it’s more important than ever to fund our gov’t & military!” "

Dec. 31: In a New Year's address, Kim warns the United States that he has a “nuclear button” on his desk. He also extends an olive branch to South Korea, saying he would be willing to consider talks between the two nations.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said North Korea said it was trying to hit U.S. military bases in Japan in March. This is incorrect. North Korea said its military units tasked to strike U.S. bases in Japan were involved in the test launch. The story has been corrected.