Over the weekend Donald Trump appeared to yet again side with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un over his own military officials or common sense. Yet again, the impetus for Trump’s praise of Kim and lambasting of U.S. anti-North Korean efforts appeared to be the result of getting a “really beautiful letter” from the murderous dictator; there appears to be no rhyme or reason to Trump’s diplomatic policy stances other than flattering those who flatter him (even dictators) while seeking to punish those that do not (even allies).
On Friday, North Korea launched another round of ballistic missiles, part of a series of escalating attention-seeking acts after the last Trump-Kim summit resulted in no serious progress on the lifting of international sanctions against the country.
By Saturday, Trump was already seeking to downplay the launches on Twitter, seemingly accepting the North Korean premise that the launches were justified due to joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea.
“It was a long letter, much of it complaining about the ridiculous and expensive” joint exercises, tweeted Trump. And it was “also a small apology for testing the short range missiles, and that this testing would stop when the exercises end. I look forward to seeing Kim Jong Un in the not too distant future!”
(This was followed by the alleged president of the United States tweeting about, no, really, the “unhinged Lamestream Media,” so it is clear the man’s remaining marbles are rapidly spiraling down a White House toilet at this point.)
Trump’s longstanding hostility towards the U.S.-South Korean military alliance has paralleled the North Korean dictatorship’s own demands that those exercises end, and Trump unilaterally announced he would be ending the exercises after a summit with Kim in 2018, shocking South Korean and United States military leaders alike. This time, too, he offered no acknowledgement that U.S. officials saw value in the “ridiculous and expensive” exercises, intended both to deter North Korean military aggression towards the South and to practice the responses that would indeed be required if North Korea’s still-massive military launched a large-scale invasion.
Instead the exercises are “ridiculous” because he said so, and because he got a “beautiful” letter from one of the world’s most aggressive and oppressive regimes. He will likely attempt to end the joint exercises again if Kim presses for it during the next summit, in the “not too distant future.” It is not clear there is anyone remaining in Trump’s orbit who would, at this point, push back on that demand.