Wednesday 21 August 2019

Trump is 'mentally deranged', taunts N Korea

Pyongyang hits out as tensions rise ahead of US president's trip to Asia

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un visits the Mangyongdae Revolutionary Academy. Photo: Reuters
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un visits the Mangyongdae Revolutionary Academy. Photo: Reuters

Carla De Wintours in Seoul

North Korea slammed US President Donald Trump as "incurably mentally deranged" in a personal diatribe ahead of his first visit to Asia as head of state, amid high tensions over Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions.

Mr Trump and the North's leader Kim Jong-un have traded threats of war and personal insults against each other in recent months, heightening worries about a potential conflict on the divided Korean peninsula.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo: Koji Sasahara/AP
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Photo: Koji Sasahara/AP

Mr Trump has warned of "fire and fury" and "calm before the storm", telling the UN General Assembly that Washington would "totally destroy North Korea" if it had to defend itself or its allies.

He dubbed Mr Kim "Rocket Man" in the same speech - Pyongyang has tested missiles apparently capable of reaching much of the US mainland - and days later Mr Kim responded with a personal statement calling Mr Trump a "dotard", an obscure term for a weak or senile old man.

The US president is due in Asia at the weekend, and ahead of his arrival the North's state-run KCNA news agency lashed out at "bellicose and irresponsible rhetoric" by the "master of invective".

"He absolutely needs medicine for curing his psychical disorder," it said.

The US has deployed key military assets, including jet fighters and aircraft carriers, near the peninsula following the North's sixth nuclear test in September, which also saw the United Nations impose an eighth set of sanctions on the isolated country.

KCNA described the sanctions drive as "desperate efforts" that would prove ineffective, and Mr Trump's hostile rhetoric as "hysteric spasmodic symptoms".

Mr Trump, it said late on Tuesday, "disclosed his true nature as a nuclear war maniac before the world and was diagnosed as 'incurably mentally deranged'".

Mr Trump's itinerary includes Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, with all eyes on his message to the North and to Mr Kim.

Pyongyang says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself against possible invasion by the US.

During a November 7-8 visit to the South - a security ally of Washington that hosts 28,500 US troops - Mr Trump is due to address Seoul's parliament and visit a US military base, although he will not go to the demilitarised zone that divides the Koreas.

Yesterday, Reuters news agency reported that the US is quietly pursuing direct diplomacy with North Korea, a senior state department official said, despite Mr Trump's public assertion that such talks are a waste of time.

Using the so-called "New York channel", Joseph Yun, US negotiator with North Korea, has been in contact with diplomats at Pyongyang's United Nations mission, the official said, at a time when an exchange of bellicose insults between Mr Trump and Mr Kim has fuelled fears of military conflict.

While US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on October 17, said he would continue "diplomatic efforts ... until the first bomb drops", the official's comments were the clearest sign the United States was directly discussing issues beyond the release of American prisoners, despite Mr Trump having earlier dismissed direct talks as pointless.

There is no sign, however, that the behind-the-scenes communications have improved a relationship vexed by North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, the death of US university student Otto Warmbier days after his release by Pyongyang in June, and the detention of three other Americans.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he hoped to fully discuss North Korea's development of nuclear weapons with Mr Trump when he visits Tokyo next week.

Mr Abe, who was re-elected by parliament's lower house yesterday, described the security environment surrounding Japan as among the worst since World War II because of North Korea's growing nuclear and missile threat.

He said that he hopes for ample time to discuss North Korea with Mr Trump in order to step up co-operation between the US and Japan.

Mr Trump is to arrive on Sunday for a three-day visit in Japan, the first leg of his first Asian tour as president.

Irish Independent

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