As North and South Korea continue to make diplomatic inroads at the Winter Olympics in Pyongchang, The Washington Post reports that President Donald Trump was mostly concerned about who would get credit for bringing the two Koreas together.
President Trump, who on the floor of the United Nations threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea in September and has issued multiple threats via Twitter (in addition to taunting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un) has made it clear that he considers diplomatic talks with Pyongyang a waste of time.
Tensions between the United States and North Korea have been high since last summer, when Pyongyang started a fresh round of ballistic missile tests and even tested an underground nuclear bomb in the fall. The United States has successfully pushed the U.N. Security Council to pass several rounds of sanctions against North Korea since then over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
But after North and South Korea began to make slow progress — at first only agreeing to open a phone line between them that had been closed for over two years — Trump got on the phone with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and asked that he be given credit for the thaw in diplomatic relations.
The Post reports: “During a Jan. 4 phone call in which the South Korean leader briefed the American president on the plans for talks with North Korea, Trump asked Moon to publicly give him the credit for creating the environment for the talks, according to people familiar with the conversation.”
It’s worth noting that this call happened the day after Seoul announced that the phone line had been re-opened, and two days after Trump boasted that his nuclear button is “much bigger & more powerful” than Kim’s nuclear button. So two days after Trump goads Kim, he pushes President Moon (which, according to The Post, he addressed as “Jae-In” — “an unimaginable informality in Korean business etiquette”), but demanded credit for the progress between Seoul and Pyongyang.
And he got it too.
Roughly a week later, Moon told reporters that Trump deserved “huge credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks.” He made no reference to Trump’s threats of “fire & fury” against neighboring North Korea, which is the subject of much discourse in South Korean media.
Specifically, there’s a worry that Trump’s style of presidency will only increase the odds of war on the Koreans peninsula at a time when China, South Korea and Japan are all pushing to ease tensions with Pyongyang.