Many a journalist closed out 2017 vowing to be less distracted by Donald Trump’s sometimes rather unpresidential tweeting, and to focus on the “real news.” Unfortunately, the start of 2018 brought this:
The US president’s tweet came late Tuesday local time, a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Day speech. Yes, Kim did speak of his nuclear button and issued this warning to the US: “The whole of its mainland is within the range of our nuclear strike and the nuclear button is on my office desk all the time; the United States needs to be clearly aware that this is not merely a threat but a reality.”
But the speech also included a rare overture regarding next month’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Last year, South Korean president Moon Jae-in invited North Korea to the Olympics, but Pyongyang had not been publicly receptive to the idea. Now Kim had this to say:
As for the Winter Olympic Games to be held soon in south Korea, it will serve as a good occasion for demonstrating our nation’s prestige and we earnestly wish the Olympic Games a success. From this point of view we are willing to dispatch our delegation and adopt other necessary measures; with regard to this matter, the authorities of the north and the south may meet together soon. Since we are compatriots of the same blood as south Koreans, it is natural for us to share their pleasure over the auspicious event and help them.
…Availing myself of this opportunity, I extend warm New Year greetings once again to all Korean compatriots at home and abroad, and I sincerely wish that in this significant year everything would go well both in the north and in the south.
If North Korea were to send a team, it’s likely that the world could count on a respite in the country’s missile testing—at least during the games, which run from Feb. 9 to Feb. 25. South Korea has responded positively to the overture. The two Koreas also reopened a hotline that has been dormant for nearly two years—South Korea had been calling the number twice a day with no luck until today (Jan. 3).
Elsewhere in the region, China started the year by promoting Kong Xuanyou, a diplomat well versed in Korean and Japanese matters, to deputy foreign minister. The move was seen by some as signaling a desire to improve relations with Japan. The US, meanwhile, doesn’t yet have an ambassador in South Korea, which already feels slighted by the US approach to security on the Korean Peninsula.
Trump earlier responded to Kim’s speech with a more circumspect tweet, so it’s not clear what prompted the more aggressive follow-up—possibly a Fox News broadcast. Sadly, this would not be the first time Trump appeared to be alluding in public to his private parts, albeit in metaphor. He did so in March 2016 in this Washington Post interview, when he spent quite some time rebutting what he took to be a derogatory reference to his size from Marco Rubio. Back then, though, he was still candidate Trump. Now he’s president Trump.
There doesn’t seem a better time to ask: Don’t you wish there was a woman in the Oval Office right about now?