Donald Trump isn’t backing down from North Korea’s vague Christmastime threat.
Trump approached North Korea’s promise to send America a “Christmas gift” with typical bravado, saying on Tuesday that he’ll “deal with” whatever the unpredictable regime has in mind if it comes, according to The Hill. The president made it clear he was taking the threat — but not necessarily the messenger — seriously, wondering aloud if North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was planning to send him a “nice vase.”
“Maybe it’s a present where he sends me a beautiful vase as opposed to a missile test,” Trump said, according to The Hill. “I may get a nice present from him. You don’t know. You never know.”
A gift from North Korea
To Trump’s critics, the “Christmas gift” message underscored their long-standing critique that the president’s efforts to establish diplomacy with the North Korean regime have failed. Ever since Trump began a historic attempt at rapprochement in 2018, critics have warned that he has failed to win concessions in nuclear talks, all while normalizing relations between the United States and a mercurial dictator.
Critics have pointed to North Korea’s resumption of short-range missile tests, and a pair of inconclusive summits in February and October — the latter of which followed a historic meeting in North Korea — as proof that Trump’s approach isn’t working. The Kim regime’s recent threat to send a “Christmas gift” unless America makes concessions raised speculation that that North Korea was planning new missile tests, possibly for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
But Trump made it clear that he wasn’t worried in comments to reporters in Palm Beach, where he’s spending the holidays.
“Oh that’s OK, we’ll find out what the surprise is and we’ll deal with it very successfully,” Trump said Tuesday.
Though Trump was apparently prepared, Christmas Day came and went without any aggression from Pyongyang, according to The Hill. American spy planes did a flyby of the Korean peninsula on Christmas just in case, however.
An uncertain relationship
Trump has been trying to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons through diplomacy, but a series of summits and coy exchanges between the two enigmatic leaders have failed to win secure promises from Pyongyang to denuclearize, critics have said. The diplomatic relationship between Trump and Kim has certainly been a strange and erratic one, Reuters notes — as much as the two men themselves.
Some have criticized Trump for “cozying” up to Kim, and the personal touches in their relationship — like a “beautiful letter” that Trump received this year from Kim — have inspired mockery. But the president has nevertheless made diplomatic breakthroughs, becoming the first sitting American president to set foot in North Korea this June after crossing into the demilitarized zone (DMZ), according to NBC News.
This new normal is certainly a far cry from 2017, when Trump and Kim were exchanging insults on Twitter and the president threatened to destroy the North with “fire and fury.” Some have observed that it was precisely Trump’s unpredictable personality and “maximum pressure” in 2017 that cowed Pyongyang, paving the way for high-level talks.
There’s nothing Trump’s critics would like more than to see diplomacy finally break down, but Trump has maintained that his “special” relationship with Kim remains a good one, according to USA Today. It remains to be seen what happens next, but as Trump showed in his 2017 war of words with Kim — and now, with this latest threat — he’s not one to roll over at the first sight of bluster.