North Korea has threatened to renew its verbal attacks against Donald Trump, warning it would have no choice but to “diagnose” the US president as a “dotard” if he continued to refer to Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man”.
After Mr Trump issued the insult at this week’s Nato summit in London, where he also outlined his willingness to take military action against North Korea if necessary, a senior advisor to Mr Kim urged the American leader to consider his future words wisely.
Choe Son-hui, the first deputy foreign minister, said via state media: “If any language and expressions stoking the atmosphere of confrontation are used once again on purpose at a crucial moment as now, that must really be diagnosed as the relapse of the dotage of a dotard.”
She added that North Korea’s foreign ministry “cannot repress displeasure over the utterances made by President Trump inappropriately at the most sensitive time”.
The recent hostilities in language, recalling to mind the infamous war of words between Mr Trump and Mr Kim in 2017, comes at a critical time for America and North Korea, with the two countries currently locked in a deadlock over nuclear negotiations.
The leaders first met in Singapore in June 2018 to hold face-to-face talks aimed at securing denuclearisation in North Korea.
However, discussions appear to have stalled in the wake of this year’s February summit, with Pyongyang blaming the likes of secretary of state Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser John Bolton over the lack of progress.
In recent months, North Korea hinted at lifting its moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests if the Trump administration fails to make substantial trade concessions before the end of the year.
During his visit to London on Tuesday, Mr Trump called on North Korea to follow up on its commitment to denuclearisation while referring to Mr Kim as “rocket man”.
“We have the most powerful military we ever had, and we are by far the most powerful country in the world and hopefully we don’t have to use it. But if we do, we will use it,” the US president said.
He added that his counterpart “likes sending rockets up, doesn’t he? That’s why I call him rocket man”, before insisting he has a “good relationship” with the North Korean leader.
Ms Son-hui insisted that Mr Trump’s remarks “prompted the waves of hatred of our people against the US” because they demonstrated “no courtesy when referring to the supreme leadership of dignity” of North Korea.
Pak Jong Chon, the country’s military chief, also revealed that Mr Kim had been left “displeased” by what he called “undesirable remarks”.
“Such elated spirit and bluffing may greatly get on the nerve of the dialogue partner even at the slightest slip,” he warned. “The use of armed forces against the DPRK will be a horrible thing for the US.”
In 2017, the two leaders traded insults as North Korea carried out a number of high-profile weapons tests aimed at developing intercontinental nuclear strikes.
Mr Trump said he would rain “fire and fury” on the country and derided Mr Kim as “little rocket man”. In response, the North Korean questioned the American president’s sanity, saying he would “tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire”.
Since that escalation, and the Singapore meeting that followed in 2018, the US and North Korea appear to have enjoyed a more cordial relationship. Mr Trump even said last year he and Mr Kim “fell in love” during their first encounter.
And despite the recent turn in relations, the Trump administration remains hopeful that a nuclear deal can be reached with North Korea.
“Kim Jong Un has promised to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula,” said US national security adviser Robert O’Brien on Wednesday. “We hope that he sticks to that promise, and we’re going to keep at the negotiations and keep at the diplomacy as long as we think that there’s hope there. And we do.
“I don’t want to say we’re optimistic, but we have some hope that the Koreans will come to the table ... and we can get a deal.”