U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, and North Korea, have traded almost countless threats towards each other publicly over the course of 2017.
Nicholas Kristof, who recently was in North Korea reporting and interviewing various officials for the New York Times wrote an October 5th article about his trip.
In the article, he notes how the country is galvanizing around Kim Jong-un and even everyday people are prepared for war and want to wipe the U.S. off the map if provoked.
However, it’s hard to not assume that these people who were interviewed are all actors in an overarching propaganda war as millions are starving on a daily basis and lack even the most basic civil rights inside the oppressive Communist regime.
In one enlightening exchange, Kristof reported that North Korean senior ministry official, Choe Kang-il “derided Trump as “a crazy man,” “a thug” and “a pathetic man with a big mouth.”
Officials offered no apology and gave no ground, reflecting a hard line toward the United States that I found everywhere on this visit; Choe derided President Trump as “a crazy man,” “a thug” and “a pathetic man with a big mouth.” I’ve been covering North Korea on and off since the 1980s, and this five-day trip has left me more alarmed than ever about the risks of a catastrophic confrontation.
I was given a visa to North Korea, as were three other New York Times journalists. The U.S. State Department promptly gave us an exemption from the travel ban to North Korea and issued special passports good for a single trip here.
Far more than when I previously visited, North Korea is galvanizing its people to expect a nuclear war with the United States. High school students march in the streets in military uniform every day to denounce America. Posters and billboards along the public roads show missiles destroying the U.S. Capitol and shredding the American flag. In fact, images of missiles are everywhere — in a kindergarten playground, at a dolphin show, on state television. This military mobilization is accompanied by the ubiquitous assumption that North Korea could not only survive a nuclear conflict, but also win it.
The revelation of these public insults come at the same time that President Trump noted the incompetent handling of North Korea by U.S. presidential administrations for the past 25 years and said “Sorry, but only one thing will work!” when it comes to dealing with North Korea.
Trump tweeted, “Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid……”
Trump continued, “…hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, making fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry but only one thing will work!”
Kristof also pressed North Korean officials on Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia undergrad student, who was medically evacuated from North Korea and returned to the United States this past June in a coma. He died not long after, on June 19.
Warmbier was serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts and had been in a coma for 15 of the 17 months he was detained in North Korea.
Warmbier was detained in January 2016 in Pyongyang on his way home from North Korea. North Korean officials said they had footage of him trying to steal a political banner that was hanging on the wall in his hotel, according to a report.
Warmbier was found guilty during a one-hour trial in North Korea’s Supreme Court.
Warmbier’s parents have come out and said their son was the victim of North Korean brutality and terrorism, and that when he returned home, he was “blind and deaf,” and “it looked like someone had taken a pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.”
Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said that Warmbier was “in a state of unresponsive wakefulness,” and had suffered severe brain injury.
Warmbier was medically evacuated from North Korea this past June, through the efforts of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Trump Administration. He arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 13.