Dec 8, 2019

Trump suggests North Korea collapsing nuclear talks is election interference

Photo: Dong-A Ilbo via Getty Images/Getty Images

In a Sunday tweet, President Trump doubled down on an argument that North Korea should not take denuclearization talks off the table — as the country stated it would on Saturday — because it could be seen as interfering in the upcoming presidential election.

What he's saying: "Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way," Trump tweeted. "He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore. He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November."

  • Trump said Saturday: "I'd be surprised if North Korea acted hostilely. I have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un. I think we both want to keep it that way. He knows I have an election coming up. I don't think he wants to interfere with that."

Context: UN envoy for North Korea Kim Song said Saturday that denuclearization is no longer an option with the U.S. The two countries signed an agreement last year with vague stipulations on denuclearization, but North Korea has said for weeks that negotiating with the U.S. has become impossible due to "hostile" policies.

Between the lines: Trump's insinuation that the breakdown in nuclear talks somehow amounts to election interference underscores the degree to which he often views foreign policy through a personal or political lens.

Go deeper: South Korea says U.S. is "very actively" coaxing North Korea to return to nuclear talks

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North Korea conducts satellite test for second time in less than a week

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un supervised the test firing of a new multiple rocket launcher on July 31. Photo: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea said on Saturday that it carried out another satellite launch test near the Chinese border, and that the unspecified test "would help bolster the country's nuclear deterrent," the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The reported test was conducted Friday evening — making it the second North Korean satellite launch in less than a week, state news agency KCNA said, per Reuters

Go deeperArrowDec 14, 2019

Evidence of new work at North Korea site linked to long-range missiles

Kim Jong-un flanked by military officials, 2017. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea has begun fresh work at a factory involved in the development and production of intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, per satellite images shared by Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.

Why it matters: Lewis said on Saturday that Pyongyang is expanding work at the March 16 Factory in Pyongsong, where North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "watched preparations" for the 2017 test of the Hwasong-15 missile, which was theoretically capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

Go deeperArrowDec 22, 2019

Exclusive: John Bolton hits Trump for bluffing on North Korea nukes

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Ed Jones/AFP, Saul Loeb/AFP, Brendan Smialowski/AFP, and Sergei Gapon/AFP all via Getty Images

In his sharpest criticism yet of his old workplace, John Bolton suggested the Trump administration is bluffing about stopping North Korea's nuclear ambitions — and soon might need to admit publicly that its policy failed badly.

Driving the news: Bolton told me in an interview that he does not think the administration "really means it" when President Trump and top officials vow to stop North Korea from having deliverable nuclear weapons — "or it would be pursuing a different course."

Go deeperArrowDec 22, 2019