At his campaign rally in West Virginia on Saturday night, Donald Trump took a minute to describe his relationship with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, and the recent negotiations he’s had with the brutal dictator.
“I was really being tough – and so was he. And we would go back and forth. And then we fell in love, okay? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters. We fell in love.”
The president quickly predicted that news organizations would be critical of Trump expressing his love for a dangerous authoritarian tyrant, adding that his detractors would say it’s “so un-presidential.”
It was an interesting insight into how Trump thinks. In his mind, when Americans balk at a U.S. leader professing his love for a communist dictator who’s threatened the United States and its allies, he assumes our principal concern is over his lack of stature and dignity.
But the real problem is what the president said, not how he said it. Whether Trump is “presidential” is less important than his love for a brutal dictator who’s done nothing to earn the United States’ affection. Trump isn’t much of a reader, but someone at the White House could probably fill him in on the findings of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea, which paints a nightmarish picture of conditions in the rogue nuclear state.
Complicating matters, Trump may believe he and Kim Jong-un “fell in love,” but there’s a possibility this is a one-sided affair. The New York Times reported on Saturday, before the president’s speech:
North Korea’s foreign minister said on Saturday that there was “no way we will denuclearize” without getting so-called trust-building concessions from the United States, an assertion that reflected a continuing divide over efforts to ease nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
“Without any trust in the United States, there will be no confidence in our national security, and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first,” the North Korean minister, Ri Yong-ho, told the United Nations General Assembly.
It’s a familiar dynamic: the United States said it’ll scale back sanctions once North Korea moves toward denuclearization, to which North Korea says it’ll move toward denuclearization once the United States scales back sanctions.
The difference, however, is Trump’s antics. The American president, when he’s not touting his love for the tyrant, tells the world how much success he’s had in eliminating the North Korean threat, and how he’s achieved historic breakthroughs, solving a dangerous crisis.
But he hasn’t. Trump has already made a series of concessions to Pyongyang in exchange for nothing, and the more he professes his love for North Korea’s dictator, the more North Korea wonders what more it can get from the overeager Republican.