A war of words between President Trump and North Korea has escalated this week. It started Tuesday with a member of North Korea’s Foreign Ministry suggesting the US should choose what kind of “Christmas Gift” it wanted. North Korea has set the end of the year as deadline for some kind of progress on stalled denuclearization talks with the US. So this was seen as a threat that North Korea could soon launch another long-range missile if it doesn’t receive some sanctions relief this month:
In a statement translated on the state news agency, Ri Thae Song, a first vice minister at the North Korean Foreign Ministry working on US affairs, accused US policy makers of leveraging talks with Kim Jong Un for domestic political gain.
“The dialogue touted by the US is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the US,” Ri said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“It is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get,” added Ri.
In 2017, North Korea referred to its first test launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as a “gift” for the US on the Fourth of July holiday.
A few hours later, President Trump said Kim Jong Un “likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he? … That’s why I call him Rocket Man.” Rocket Man is the name Trump gave Kim in 2017 when tensions with North Korea were highest. He stopped using that name after the Singapore summit last June. Moments later, Trump took it up another notch by talking about the strength of the US military in response to a question about North Korea.
“We have peace and at least speaking for myself I have a very good personal relationship and he has with me,” Trump said. He continued, “I’m possibly the only one he has that kind of relationship with in the world.”
Trump added, “Now we have the most powerful military we ever had, and we are by far the most powerful country in the world, and hopefully we don’t have to use it. But if we do, we’ll use it. If we have to, we’ll do it.”
North Korea responded to Trump’s comments today with a warning that, “the use of armed forces is not the privilege of the U.S. only.” There are also some symbolic shows of strength appearing on North Korean TV. Kim Jong Un made a trip up a sacred mountain riding his white horse:
KCNA released dozens of photographs showing Kim Jong Un on horseback touring Mount Paektu, an active volcano that sits on the country’s border with China, alongside his wife and other officials. This was Kim’s second trip on horseback atop the mountain since October.
While the photographs are the butt of jokes and mockery online, the images of Kim on horseback touring the mountain are imbued with potent symbolism.
According to legend, Mount Paektu is the birthplace of Dangun, the mythical founder of the first Korean kingdom some 4,000 years ago.
Here’s video of Kim’s mountain ascent. I have no idea what the announcer is saying but you can probably get the gist from the photos.