TOKYO — North Korea on Tuesday criticized President Trump in the way that only North Korean propagandists can, calling him "an old lunatic, mean trickster and human reject" over a speech he made in South Korea this month.
This is not North Korea's first commentary on Trump's 12-day trip through the region. It already had denounced him for traveling around Asia "like a hungry wolf" who was trying to enrich the U.S. defense industry "by milking the moneybags from its subordinate 'allies.' "
But it is North Korea's most hyperbolic tirade to date.
Trump's "reckless remarks" during his visits to Japan, South Korea and China were "an open declaration of war," the Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers' Party, said in a commentary published Tuesday.
"Rabid dogs' barking can never frighten the Korean people," it wrote, adding that North Korea must "toughly react to any acts of hostility."
"The U.S. will have to bitterly experience what it dislikes most and witness what it thought of in nightmare," the commentary said.
In a 35-minute speech to South Korea's National Assembly this month, Trump devoted 22 minutes — by North Korea's count — to criticizing the regime in Pyongyang.
The speech was filled with words such as "twisted," "sinister," "tyrant," "fascism" and "cult," and he called North Korea "a hell that no person deserves."
Most pointedly, Trump addressed leader Kim Jong Un directly and, referring to founding president Kim Il Sung, said, "North Korea is not the paradise your grandfather envisioned." This was heretical for a country where the Kims are treated like demigods.
North Korea took apart the speech in the commentary, listing four "crimes" that Trump had committed.
"The worst crime for which he can never be pardoned is that he dared malignantly hurt the dignity of the supreme leadership of the DPRK," it said, using the official abbreviation for North Korea.
Calling Trump an "old slave of money," the paper said he will be "forced to pay dearly for his blasphemy any moment."
The other "crimes" include hurting North Korea's dignity, painting "a black picture of the happy life of the great Korean people" and wanting to stifle North Korea "by force of violence."
North Korea would regularly denounce previous U.S. presidents in the most colorful — and often plainly offensive — terms, but the regularity of its attacks on Trump is notable, as is the way the propagandists in Pyongyang are using Trump's words against him.
Instead of making America great again, the Rodong Sinmun recently noted, Trump is making it "weak and poor."
Kim and Trump seemingly have been trying to outdo each other with personal insults since the U.S. president derided the North Korean leader as "little rocket man" in September, and Kim responded by calling him a "dotard."
After the North Korean regime recently dismissed Trump as an "old lunatic," the president wondered aloud on Twitter why Kim would "insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?' "
On Monday, Trump restored North Korea to the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a largely symbolic act that is unlikely to have a wide practical effect on a country already under a heavy yoke of existing sanctions.
Separately, the North Korean soldier who was shot while making a dash for freedom across the demilitarized zone last week has regained consciousness and is breathing on his own, according to news reports from Seoul.
However, the young soldier has pneumonia and hepatitis B, as well as blood poisoning that probably is associated with the huge transfusions he needed after being shot by his compatriots during his escape. He received 16 quarts of blood after arriving in the hospital.
The soldier, who is in his 20s, has opened his eyes and was able to respond to questions, the Dong-A Ilbo, one of South Korea's biggest newspapers, reported Tuesday. He inquired with his doctors if he was in South Korea and asked to listen to South Korean pop songs, the paper reported.
The soldier last week made a brazen escape through the truce village of Panmunjom in the DMZ, running across the border line toward South Korea. But he was shot five or six times by North Korean soldiers, including while he was down on the ground.
He has had surgeries to repair gunshot wounds in his elbow, shoulder and the most serious injuries in his abdomen. Those procedures were complicated by the fact that the man had a severe infestation of parasites, some of which were 11 inches long.
The contamination in his abdominal cavity is severely complicating his recovery, doctors have said.
The soldier is "struggling" to recover from his injuries, the Dong-A Ilbo reported, citing medical officials at the Ajou University Medical Center, where he is being treated.
"His liver doesn't work well, and he has been diagnosed with pneumonia and hepatitis B. He even has blood poisoning," an official was quoted as saying. "He's in trouble."
However, other reports suggested the soldier was responding well to antibiotics — perhaps because he had never been treated with them before.