Little Rocket Man is shaking in his tiny boots.
After years of do-nothing American presidents, North Korea is starting to realize that the trump administration means business. In his first address to the United Nations, Trump used fiery rhetoric to call to attention the seriousness of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. Not used to having a president in the White House with a backbone, North Korean diplomats are grabbing at straws trying to find former American politicians that will treat them more gingerly.
Here’s more on the breaking story, from CNN:
The proverbial game of chicken between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has only escalated in recent months, but amid the public name-calling and threats of annihilation, regime officials have been quietly attempting to set up meetings with Republican analysts in an apparent attempt to better understand the mixed messages coming from the Trump administration.
North Korea has consistently demonstrated that it is unwilling to engage in direct negotiations over its rapidly developing nuclear program despite Trump’s fiery rhetoric and increased sanctions — growing more defiant in the wake of several successful ballistic missile launches and its latest nuclear test.While top diplomats continue to insist the US prefers a diplomatic resolution to rein in the rogue nation, there is little evidence to indicate that either side is willing to concede any ground on key issues that could open the door to formal negotiations.The absence of official diplomatic talks has only increased the likelihood of a potential miscalculation, according to several experts, noting that Trump’s sometimes unpredictable threats of “fire and fury” and a “devastating” military option have been publicly contradicted at times by several of his top advisers hoping to strike a more cautious tone.But amid the bluster, North Korea has attempted to engage in what the US qualifies as “track two” talks to facilitate conversation beyond formal diplomatic channels and it is not unusual for intermediaries to approach American scholars or ex-officials with particular political ties when a new administration takes office.
The White House is aware when these meetings occur and provided with any information that might be gathered, according to experts who have engaged in talks.Outreach by North Korean government officials started in January after Trump’s inauguration with the goal of gaining a broad understanding as to how the new president’s policies might differ from those of the previous administration, according to several experts who were approached.The Washington Post first reported that North Korean officials were reaching out to several Republican-linked analysts to get a better understanding of Trump’s messaging.“I think they may have thought that reaching out to people who represent what is now the mainstream way of thinking and had who had more access to the Trump administration than people in past was a better way to send messages or get information,” said Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst and the top expert on North Korea at the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation.“They are trying to piece together what they can about what the US policy is under the new administration,” he said. “But even in Washington, we are often confused or have questions about what the parameters of the policies are, so imagine trying to assess Washington from further away, in Seoul, Tokyo, and Pyongyang.”Klingner declined an invitation from North Korea’s mission to the United Nations to visit Pyongyang for meetings but he has participated in multiple conferences involving North Korean officials.“They are trying to discern what the policy is and possible triggers for red lines,” Klingner told CNN, adding that efforts to contact conservative or Republican analysts are likely the result of confusion over the Trump administration’s messaging in the absence of official diplomatic talks with the US government.While these talks can provide valuable opportunities for both sides to gather information, Klingner emphasized that the North Koreans should use official channels to communicate any messages that might signal they are serious about negotiations directly to the US government.Communications through this channel were cut off in July 2016 but re-opened to facilitate the return of Otto Warmbier — an American student who had been imprisoned in North Korea, according to Klingner, who added that efforts to engage in track two talks did not just begin with the Trump administration or while the channel was closed.North Korea’s mission to the UN did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.However, Trump and Kim’s war of words has coincided with an uptick in outreach by North Korean intermediaries seeking to establish alternate channels of communication — but experts said they noticed a shift in tone from the North Koreans in recent months compared to meetings earlier this year.While Klingner declined an invitation to travel to Pyongyang, he did meet with North Korean officials in June during a conference in Sweden.