There is no love lost in the endlessly escalating war of words and delightful soundbites between Trump and North Korea, and after the President threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea, the country’s foreign minister said Trump’s UN speech amounted to “the sound of a dog barking,” adding that Trump’s warnings are just a nonsensical “dog dream.”
“If he was thinking he could scare us with the sound of a dog barking, that’s really a dog dream,” North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told reporters in New York on Wednesday, as cited by the Yonhap news agency. Along with other world diplomats, Ri was in New York to attend the UN General Assembly. In his debut speech to the UN on Tuesday, Trump vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea if the US was forced to defend its allies. Referring North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by a nickname he first used in in a tweet Sunday, Trump said: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
Responding to Trump’s new nickname for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, ‘Rocket Man’, Ri said: “I feel sorry for his aides.”
North Korean diplomats were not present for Trump’s speech.
According to CNN, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is also in New York, played down the possibility of a meeting with his North Korean counterpart. Pyongyang and Washington do not maintain formal diplomatic relations and the presence of North Korea’s top diplomat in the US could have afforded a rare chance for high-level, face-to-face dialogue.
Tillerson told reporters he did not believe he could have a “matter-of-fact discussion with North Korea because we don’t know how their means of communication and behavior will be.
Tillerson claimed there were signs that increased international pressure on North Korea was starting to bear fruit. He said there was evidence of fuel shortages in the country after the passage of recent UN sanctions, which targeted oil imports among other things. However, analysts pointed out that fuel shortages did not necessarily prove that sanctions were having an effect, as most North Koreans don’t own cars or use fuel at anywhere near the rate of the rest of the world.
Separately, Trump is scheduled to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in Thursday, two important US allies on North Korea’s doorstop. On the top of the agenda is likely to be South Korea’s surprise decision to send an $8 million aid package to North Korea. According to Reuters, the move, which runs contrary to the US and Japan’s calls for an increase in economic and diplomatic pressure, marks a resumption in South Korean aid after a break of almost two years.
The South said it planned to send $4.5 million worth of medical treatments, nursery facilities and nutritional products for children and pregnant women through the World Food Programme, and $3.5 million worth of medicinal treatments and nutritional products through UNICEF.
“We have consistently said we would pursue humanitarian aid for North Korea in consideration of the poor conditions children and pregnant women are in there, apart from political issues,” said Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon.
UNICEF’s regional director for East Asia and the Pacific Karin Hulshof said in a statement before the decision the problems North Korean children face “are all too real”.
“Today, we estimate that around 200,000 children are affected by acute malnutrition, heightening their risk of death and increasing rates of stunting,” Hulshof said. “Food and essential medicines and equipment to treat young children are in short supply,” she said.
However as Reuters adds, the decision to send aid to North Korea “was not popular in South Korea, hitting President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating. It also raised concerns in Japan and the United States, and followed new U.N. sanctions against North Korea over its sixth nuclear test earlier this month.”
South Korea’s efforts aimed at fresh aid for North Korea dragged down Moon’s approval rating. Realmeter, a South Korean polling organization, said on Thursday Moon’s approval rating stood at 65.7 percent, weakening for a fourth straight month.
The last time the South had sent aid to the North was in December 2015 through the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) under ex-president Park Geun-hye.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the situation on the Korean peninsula was getting more serious by the day and could not be allowed to spin out of control. “We call on all parties to be calmer than calm and not let the situation escalate out of control,” Wang said, according to a report from the state-run China News Service on Thursday.
Meeting separately with his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha, Wang reiterated a call for South Korea to remove the U.S.-built THAAD anti-missile system, which China says is a threat to its own security. “China hopes South Korea will make efforts to reduce tension,” a report on China’s official Xinhua news agency quoted Wang as saying.