[guest post by Dana]
The Trump administration acknowledged on Saturday for the first time that it was in direct communication with the government of North Korea over its missile and nuclear tests, seeking a possible way forward beyond the escalating threats of a military confrontation from both sides.
“We are probing, so stay tuned,” Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson said, when pressed about how he might begin a conversation with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, that could avert what many government officials fear is a significant chance of open conflict between the two countries.
“We ask, ‘Would you like to talk?’ We have lines of communications to Pyongyang — we’re not in a dark situation, a blackout,” he added. “We have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang,” a reference to North Korea’s capital.
The report goes on to clarify that North Korea is not interested in any negotiations if they include a requirement to disarm, and that President Trump is unwilling to make any concessions. Tillerson’s spokesperson, Heather Nauert, offered this:
Despite assurances that the United States is not interested in promoting the collapse of the current regime, pursuing regime change, accelerating reunification of the peninsula or mobilizing forces north of the DMZ, North Korean officials have shown no indication that they are interested in or are ready for talks regarding denuclearization.
Cue President Trump’s morning tweets:
Okay. I give. Clearly, I’m too ignorant to understand how comments like these reflect a clever and brilliant strategy. You, who have tapped into President Trump’s unique genius, are going to have to enlighten me. How are veiled threats and threats of annihilation helpful? It appears I’m not the only one confused:
North Korean officials are reaching out to Republican analysts in Washington, DC, in an effort to see what’s up with President Trump and his caustic comments about regime leader Kim Jong Un, according to a report Tuesday.
“Their number one concern is Trump. They can’t figure him out,” the Washington Post reported, quoting a person aware of the country’s reaching out to Asia experts with GOP connections.
And while the North Korean operatives have an “encyclopedic” understanding of what Trump tweets about Kim, they can’t get a fix on what makes the president tick.
Evans Revere, a former State Department official who routinely had contact with North Korea, participated in the meeting in Switzerland and has his own opinion about what the operatives are up to.
“My own guess is that they are somewhat puzzled as to the direction in which the US is going, so they’re trying to open up channels to take the pulse in Washington,” he told the newspaper. “They haven’t seen the US act like this before.”
Maybe it’s a simple strategy of being so erratic and unpredictable that North Korea is kept off balance:
Some Trump aides have said that the discordant foreign policy voices emanating from the administration are intentionally out of sync — that Trump likes a set up where some officials use harsher, tougher rhetoric than others. It’s a good cop-bad cop routine that, administration officials say, is designed to keep enemies on their toes. Besides Trump, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has often employed harsher language than Tillerson.
Or maybe there is no real strategy involved. Maybe we are just witnessing the ongoing reflexive reactions of an impulsive man who likes to punch back 10 times harder.
Exit question: Does Tillerson become the next cabinet member to resign?