North Korea’s rhetoric is the same. It’s Trump’s reaction that makes this different.
Both leaders are trying to outdo each other in the insult department, from “rocket man” and “dotard” to “little rocket man” and “the ringleader of aggressors.”
Although the threats are colorful — on both sides — experts on North Korea say they are in keeping with North Korea’s history of bluster and do not signal a significant change in North Korea’s thinking.
“I’m not concerned. North Korea likes colorful rhetoric and they always have,” said Tatiana Gabroussenko, a specialist on North Korean propaganda who teaches at Korea University in Seoul. “The problem now is Mr. Trump. He reacts, he answers, he tweets, so he’s making it visible.”
Trump on Tuesday warned that if the United States decides to take military action against North Korea it would be “devastating.”
The comment prompted a rebuke from Pyongyang. “Trump declared a war against the DPRK through his wild remarks,” declared an editorial Wednesday in Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the Korean Workers’ Party.
“The army and people of the DPRK will surely make the old lunatic pay for his rude speech,” it said, using the official abbreviation for North Korea.
After Trump called Kim “rocket man” during his address to the United Nations General Assembly last week, the North Korean leader issued a highly unusual and direct statement about the American president, calling him “mentally deranged” and saying he would pay for the insult.
Trump doubled down, calling Kim “little rocket man,” leading the North Korean foreign minister to say the president had declared war and to issue a brazen threat to shoot down American war planes whether they are in North Korean airspace.
With American fighter jets now doing drills across South Korea, near the border with the North, on a regular basis, many experts are worried about the possibility for miscalculation or misunderstanding.
North Korea has continued churning out propaganda with its trademark braggadocio.
“U.S. imperialist warmongers are bluffing, being buoyed by war fever, after proposing ‘military counteraction’ against the DPRK again,” the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Tuesday, using the country’s official abbreviation. “Literally, the whole country is permeated with the spirit to annihilate war maniac and old lunatic Trump on the earth.”
These threats have gone the North Korean version of viral. More than 100,000 people took part in a regime-organized rally in Pyongyang on Saturday, to show they were ready to “remove the U.S. imperialists, the sworn enemy, from the globe,” KCNA reported.
Photos from the rally showed orderly columns of men in workers’ suits and students in white shirts and red ties, some holding signs declaring “The U.S. is the headquarters of evil.”
KCNA quoted one participant as saying that Trump’s recent comments were the “most ignorant remarks ever known in history,” while another said they were “insane.”
But Gabroussenko said these kinds of demonstrations are not new in North Korea. The change has been in the attention being paid to the rhetoric, not in the rhetoric itself.
“You can go back to North Korean rhetoric from the 1950s and find this kind of anti-Americanism,” she said. “Anti-Americanism is the basis of North Korean culture and history.”