Donald Trump & North Korea's Dysfunctional Will-They/Won't-They "Bromance" Is Playing Out In The Strangest Way
If you thought we'd already passed Weird O'Clock in the 2016 presidential election, you are sorely mistaken. Especially now that North Korean State news outlet DPRK Today published an editorial glowingly endorsing Donald Trump. If this news sounds fake and Orwellian to you — and maybe has you wondering whether a foreign policy version of Punk'd (with Joe Biden as Ashton Kutcher, obviously) is being launched — you're in good company. But surprise! It's all too real.
A translation from NK News via Washington Post found that the outlet — which, being state-run, is going to print editorials that are in line with the policies of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — was supportive of Trump's exciting policies over "dull" Hillary Clinton's when it comes to North Korean interests. “There are many positive aspects to Trump’s ‘inflammatory policies,'" the article, whose author is listed as Han Yong Mook, a Chinese North Korea scholar, states, including that "Trump said he will not get involved in the war between the South and the North, isn’t this fortunate from North Korea’s perspective?”
Now that we're dealing with what could easily be the most dysfunctional and perplexing bromance of the century — a Wonder Twin pairing of two egomaniacal figures, each known globally for their childish, violent rhetoric — let's analyze the trajectory of this whirlwind mess of a relationship, and see what's in store for Trump and North Korea.
January 2016: Trump Calls Kim Jong-un A "Maniac" — But Also Gives Him Some Props?
Earlier this year, Trump didn't shy away from criticism of the North Korean government, though he also praised its leader in a weird way. The Hill reported from a rally in Ottumwa, Iowa, where Trump managed to talk trash but also talk up the North Korean leader:
If you look at North Korea, this guy, he’s like a maniac, OK? ... And you’ve got to give him credit: How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals and all of a sudden, you know, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it. How does he do that? Even though it is a culture, and it’s a culture thing, he goes in, he takes over, he’s the boss. It’s incredible.
Uh, yikes? It certainly makes recent events seem a little less out of left field, but still ... yikes.
February 2016: Trump Low-Key Suggests That China Assassinate Kim Jong-un
In an interview with CBS's This Morning, Trump did that thing where he implied something major and sort of inflammatory — like suggesting an assassination. Only he didn't stop at implications. When host Norah O'Donnell asked if his statement that "I would get China to make that guy disappear in one form or another very quickly" was in fact a call for assassinating the leader, he didn't even bother to backpedal:
Well, you know, I’ve heard of worst things, frankly. I mean, this guy is a bad dude. And don’t underestimate him.
If sixth grade has taught me anything, them's fighting words.
April 2016: North Korean Officials Call Trump's Policies "Totally Absurd And Illogical."
In an interview with CNN in April, Ri Jong Ryul, deputy director general of the Institute of International Studies in Pyongyang, responded to Trump's policies:
Donald Trump's remarks are totally absurd and illogical ... The U.S. tells us to give up our nuclear program, is preparing a nuclear attack against us, and on the other hand would tell its allies to have nuclear weapons. Isn't this (a) double standard?
Early In May 2016: Trump Says He'd Actually Talk To Kim Jong-un
It was a pretty big freakin' deal when Trump told Reuters that he'd "absolutely" be open to speaking to Kim Jong-un. "I would speak to him, I would have no problem speaking to him," Trump said, though he failed to provide other details of what his North Korean foreign policy approach would actually entail.
Later In May 2016: Trump Will Talk To North Korea, But Let's Be Clear, He Won't Go There
It's very on-brand for Trump to nitpick some media word choice to make a petty point. So when he argued with Morning Joe's Joe Scarborough that he wouldn't go to North Korea, but would still be willing to talk to officials (despite their dismissive responses in the past), it was the back-and-forth we've come to expect.
The last thing I would do is go there. I don’t know who would say I would go there.
Even Later In May 2016: North Korea Says "Nah" To Trump's Proposal Of A Sitdown With Kim Jong-un
So Se-pyong, North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, read Trump's offer to talk with Kim Jong-un as "useless, just a gesture for the presidential election,” telling Reuters:
It is up to the decision of my Supreme Leader whether he decides to meet or not, but I think his [Trump’s] idea or talk is nonsense ... It’s for [use] of the presidential election, that’s all. A kind of a propaganda or advertisement ...
Which Brings Us To The Present ...
After some back-and-forth between the two titans of global politics (snort), it's truly fascinating that something resembling an endorsement from an official North Korea media outlet would come to pass. I'm sure we'll see more of this will they / won't they dynamic play out before November.