President Donald Trump returned to the well of his taunts against North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Sunday morning in a tweet that was paired with a cryptic threat.
Specifically, Trump again referred to Kim as “Little Rocket Man,” and suggested that the United States―and in particular Secretary of State Rex Tillerson―was wasting time trying to negotiate with the 33-year-old dictator. Trump followed up his first tweet about Kim by telling Tillerson to “save your energy,” and ominously remarking “we’ll do what has to be done!”
I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
…Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
Being nice to Rocket Man hasn't worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won't fail.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
Kim and Trump have been publicly threatening one another, and one another’s countries, for months. This isn’t a new phenomenon on the North Korean side, as the isolated state has been prone to making hyperbolic and threatening statements toward the U.S. and its regional allies, South Korea and Japan, for years. For instance, North Korea has publicly promised to turn the U.S. into a “sea of fire,” the same turn of phrase that it used back in 2009, and even in years prior.
The main difference in the dynamic between the two hostile countries, beyond the reported advancement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons technology, is that the U.S. now has a leader willing to amplify and engage that kind of apocalyptic rhetoric, rather than try to tamp it down to ease tensions and avert conflict.
The public saber-rattling between the new leaders seemed to escalate to new heights after Trump’s reportedly unscripted, improvised remark in August that North Korea would be met with “fire and fury” if its nuclear provocations continued. This didn’t deter North Korea from conducting further nuclear tests, however, and in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly last week, North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho threatened that the country could perform a hydrogen bomb test in the Pacific Ocean.
Ri’s combative remarks came on the heels of Trump’s own address to the U.N. assembly, when he threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea if it continued ramping up its nuclear technology.