As you have likely heard already, North Korea fired off two more short-range missiles into the ocean over the past week or so. This comes just as the United States moves forward with previously planned military exercises with South Korea, no doubt annoying dictator Kim Jong-un. The missile launches have no doubt put some strain on the “special relationship” that President Trump has been attempting to foster with North Korea’s tyrant, but yesterday he announced that he had received a “beautiful” three page letter from Kim, including a “small apology” for the missile tests and assurances that they would be ending soon. (Associated Press)
[Trump] says he’s looking “forward to seeing Kim Jong Un in the not too distant future!”
Trump is tweeting more details from the “beautiful” three-page letter he told reporters Friday he’d received.
Trump said Saturday from his New Jersey golf club that Kim spent much of his letter complaining about “the ridiculous and expensive exercises.” He says that Kim offered him “a small apology” for the flurry of recent short-range missile tests that have rattled U.S. allies in the region and that Kim assured him they would stop when exercises end.
Since we’re not being shown the letter we’re left to guess about some of the details. To be clear, I don’t think world leaders are obligated to immediately release every private message they share with each other, though they should be preserved and made public when all potential security concerns are behind us. (That even applies when you’re telling another world leader that you’ll have “more flexibility after the election,” but the responsibility for making sure your mic is off is on your shoulders.) Still, it would be interesting to know just what Kim had to say.
The idea of Kim writing a letter is nothing shocking so I’m confident he really sent one. Complaints about the military exercises are also no surprise since Kim has been very public in his denunciations of them. But did he really offer a “small apology?”
I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Kim wouldn’t mind apologizing, or at least saying something that might be interpreted as an apology, as long as he could do it in private. He still very much wants all of the sanctions lifted, as well as maintaining a desire to be treated like a legitimate international figure on the world stage. But he couldn’t afford to be seen apologizing in front of his own people since that might be perceived as weakness, so I doubt news of this letter will make it onto North Korea’s state news agency coverage.
With all that in mind, I’m inclined to take the President at his word about this. If the missile tests end after our joint military exercises conclude, we’ll be back to the recent status quo. It’s not a perfect situation and thus far hasn’t done anything to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, but it’s better than mushroom clouds erupting every six months I suppose.