Kim jong-un

Is North Korea about to test another nuke?

North Korea’s spring has started with a bang. The United States and South Korea have staged their largest joint military exercises in five years, and Pyongyang’s rhetoric is becoming more aggressive. Kim Jong Un has warned that the US and South Korea would ‘plunge into despair’ for holding the drills, as he fired two missiles into the sea between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. Kim’s regime has already fired more than 20 missiles this year, launching increasingly ambitious and sophisticated ballistic and cruise missiles. Earlier this week, North Korean state media proudly claimed that the regime had developed tactical nuclear weapons for the first time. Photographs showed Kim inspecting what looked like miniaturised nuclear warheads that

Can Kim Jong-un survive for another ten years?

Ten years ago today, at noon on 19 December 2011, the veteran newsreader and ‘Pink Lady’ Ri Chun-hee, donned an unusual black hanbok. Struggling to hold back her tears, Ri announced that North Korea’s Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il – a recluse workaholic who had led the country for 17 years – had died. On the same day, his twenty-something second son, Kim Jong-un, was duly anointed as the ‘great successor to the revolutionary cause’. Today’s anniversary does not reflect well on Kim’s legacy as leader of North Korea. He now rules a state crippled by economic problems, beset by factionalism in the ruling party, and which has sour relations with

North Korea is on the verge of a humanitarian collapse

During the Trump years, North Korea was hardly ever out of the news. From the US President’s threats of ‘fire and fury’ against the rogue state, to dramatic meetings with Kim Jong-un in Singapore and Hanoi, the world’s attention was firmly focused on Pyongyang. But with Trump out of office, the chaos of Covid-19, and the fall of Afghanistan, North Korea has fallen off the agenda. That could well be a terrible mistake, considering the state’s pressing humanitarian crisis. Following the coronavirus outbreak last January, North Korea shut its borders almost completely. As a result trade with China, by far its biggest economic partner, has decreased by at least 80

North Korea’s cryptic crisis

For years, the West has tried to cajole the North Korean regime using sanctions, much to the frustration of Kim Jong-un. But now in the era of Covid, Pyongyang has been forced to inflict greater economic harm on itself, entrenching its international isolation and the suffering of its people. The hermit kingdom was one of the first countries to close itself off. The border with South Korea is already one of the most fortified in the world, while the northern Chinese perimeter, a vital point of trade, was sealed in January 2020 before many in the West had even heard of Covid. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the

Lil’ Kim: should the West prepare for chaos in North Korea?

On 24 June, North Korean state TV aired a short interview with an unnamed Pyongyang resident. The man, who appeared to be in his fifties, said that his fellow countrymen had all been left heartbroken and in tears when they saw the new, ‘emaciated’ look of Kim Jong-un. The country’s hereditary dictator, who hadn’t been seen in public for a month, recently re-emerged looking rather different. Even now it’s a bit of a stretch to call him ‘emaciated’, since his estimated body weight is nearly 19 stone. Still, it is a big drop from the 23 stone he weighed only a month earlier. However, it was not Kim’s weight loss

The increasing cruelty of the North Korean regime

On a humid summer’s day in Singapore three years ago today, Donald Trump became the first incumbent US president to meet with his North Korean counterpart. For all of the summit’s theatre, Kim Jong-un’s pledge to ‘work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula’ seems unlikely to be realised. Three years on, and the country shows little intention of either abandoning its nuclear ambitions or reforming Pyongyang. Instead, the regime has tightened its control over society, not least ideologically, after the failure of the Supreme Leader’s five-year economic plan. In 2018, the leadership assured North Koreans that the country had achieved its primary geopolitical aim of becoming a ‘fully-fledged nuclear

Donald Trump’s dictator complex

The reviews are coming in for Donald Trump’s performance in Singapore and they aren’t pretty. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times says Trump was ‘hoodwinked’. Ari Fleischer, the former press spokesman for George W. Bush, says ‘This feels like the Agreed Framework of the 90s all over again. NK gave its word to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons. They never intended to keep their word. And then they broke it.’ And Bruce Klingner, a former CIA analyst now at the Heritage Foundation, says ‘This is very disappointing. Each of the four main points was in previous documents with NK, some in a stronger, more encompassing way. The denuke

Freddy Gray

Donald Trump’s real-estate politik is working | 12 June 2018

Barack Obama tried to be the first Pacific President. He attempted to pivot America’s grand strategy eastwards in order to adapt to a changing world. He failed, by and large. After his meeting with Kim Jong-un today, Donald Trump has shown that he is moving further east. In fact, Trump could be turning into the first truly Global President. No doubt that sentence sounds ridiculous. Trump is an ‘American First’ nationalist who believes in tariffs and borders; he stands for everything we’ve been told globalisation isn’t. But there is a difference between globalisation as a supranational faith in the free-market; and globalisation as a process that is actually happening. In the real world, globalisation has replaced

The Spectator’s Notes | 14 June 2018

‘Trudeau or Trump?’ was a choice which Theresa May, with unusually ready wit, evaded in Parliament on Monday. No doubt I am in a minority, but I feel that, of the two, Mr Trudeau — the G7 host at La Malbaie — is the more absurd figure on the world stage, being just as vain as the President and far more pointless (if you doubt me, compare the two men’s tweets). In the same parliamentary statement, Sir Vince Cable asked ‘What is the point of the G7?’ It is part of President Trump’s subversive skill that his actions prompt people to ask such questions. There is no need for such annual

Freddy Gray

Donald Trump’s real-estate politik is working

Barack Obama tried to be the first Pacific President. He attempted to pivot America’s grand strategy eastwards in order to adapt to a changing world. He failed, by and large. After his meeting with Kim Jong-un today, Donald Trump has shown that he is moving further east. In fact, Trump could be turning into the first truly Global President. No doubt that sentence sounds ridiculous. Trump is an ‘American First’ nationalist who believes in tariffs and borders; he stands for everything we’ve been told globalisation isn’t. But there is a difference between globalisation as a supranational faith in the free-market; and globalisation as a process that is actually happening. In

Will Trump prove his critics wrong over North Korea?

Donald Trump means different things to different people. To his core supporters, he’s the man who will make America great again.  To his diehard opponents, he is a dangerous juvenile with authoritarian tendencies. Ultimately, these descriptions are secondary to how Trump sees himself: a tough, dealmaking Svengali who has the experience and power of persuasion to get a deal that is advantageous to himself and to the people he represents. Democrats laugh and dismissively wave off that mindset as self-delusion. Even some Republicans would likely roll their eyes in private. Trump, of course, knows this too well – which is why his dalliance with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un this week

Rocket men

After spending most of his presidency posing a nuclear-armed hothead, Kim Jong-un is now presenting himself as a man of peace. ‘I came here to put an end to the history of confrontation,’ he said on his historic visit to South Korea. Which might be so. But his real agenda may be to gain acceptance for North Korea’s status as a nuclear power: holding an olive branch in one hand, and a seven-kilotonne bomb in the other. The visit to the south comes ahead of his trips to meet Donald Trump, who has referred to Kim Jong-un as a ‘little rocket man’ and tweeted a photo boasting that his own nuclear

Portrait of the Week – 5 April 2018

Home Alison Saunders said she would relinquish her position as the Director of Public Prosecutions when her five-year contract ends in October. Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, told the Times that she was ditching the previously embraced principle of believing all complaints of sexual assault. ‘We should have an open mind when a person walks in,’ she said. In February, 15 people were murdered in London and 14 in New York; in March it was 22 and 21. On 2 April two teenagers were shot in London; one died at the scene and the other the day after. Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, said that the sale

Kim’s unwise offer

President Trump’s acceptance of talks about denuclearisation must have been as big a shock to Kim Jong-un as his offer was to the USA. So Kim is probably scrambling, too. And if there is a positive outcome, he will live to regret it. In the 2nd century bc the two big Mediterranean players were Rome and the vast Hellenistic ‘empire’ to the east, left behind by Alexander the Great and ruled by assorted ‘kings’ descended from his generals. The Hellenistic king Antiochus IV had ambitions to extend his power west into Greece and Egypt. Knocked back by Rome, in 168 bc he took advantage of disunity in Judaea to establish a power base

Could Donald Trump end up with the Nobel Peace Prize?

Donald Trump’s acceptance of Kim Jong-un’s invitation to meet is a master stroke. It’s exactly the kind of thing Ronald Reagan liked to do. Reagan, you may recall, announced his pursuit of a missile defense system in March 1983 on national television without alerting his advisers beforehand. Liberals went crazy. Then he decided to end the Cold  War by reaching out to Mikhail Gorbachev. Conservatives went bonkers. Reagan, we were told, had become a useful idiot. Today he is hailed as a visionary by all and sundry. Whether Trump’s move will work depends in part on how eager the North Korean regime is to escape the increasingly draconian sanctions that have

Where Trump succeeds

Among the many new political maladies of our age, one has been left largely undiagnosed. This is Trump Derangement Syndrome, a condition whereby intense dislike of the 45th president renders sufferers unable to understand what he is trying to do or allow that he is capable of success. Trump is hard to admire, it’s true, and seems to revel in his ability to appal. But therein lies the secret of his power: with a few tweets, he can set the world’s news agenda and drive his critics to distraction. Take this week, when he tweeted that his nuclear arsenal is larger than that of Kim Jong-un. His comments were seized

Madness on parade

As Kim Jong-un might blow up the world next year, if not this, and people are forever trying to work out what is going on in his country, perhaps it is worth describing a military parade I attended in Pyongyang a few years back. The occasion was the centenary of the birth of the current Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, the founder of the Marxist monarchy who, despite his death more than two decades ago, remains Eternal Leader of the nation. Other attendees included some flotsam and jetsam of the Cold War, a reunion of the Axis of Evil and representatives from various other rogue states and immiserated nations. Presuming it

Going nuclear

Wednesday marked the 72nd anniversary of the dropping of the bomb on Nagasaki. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki prompted Emperor Hirohito to announce Japan’s surrender in a radio address, though fanatical war hawks tried to stop him. After 1945, Japan developed a pacifist movement and a so-called peace constitution. No country has deployed these fearsome weapons since. Can it really be a coincidence that the day before this eerie anniversary, Donald Trump issued his implicit threat to unleash an unprecedentedly devastating nuclear attack on North Korea that would apparently eclipse Hiroshima and Nagasaki? ‘North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,’ said the President. ‘They

Nick Hilton

The Spectator Podcast: Fire and fury

On this week’s episode, we’re discussing the war of words between President Trump and North Korea, and asking whether it could spill over into an actual war. We’ll also be looking at the plight of the Yazidis, struggling to recover from genocide committed by Isis in 2014, and, finally, wondering whether it’s better to stay in the UK for your summer holidays. First, North Korea’s increased militarisation was met this week by a threat from President Trump to unleash ‘fire and fury’ against the rogue state. Conjuring up images of nuclear warfare on the anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki created something of an international panic, but are we really

Tom Goodenough

What the papers say: The danger of Trump’s war of words

Donald Trump’s fighting talk has the world worried. But his promise to bring ‘fire and fury’ to North Korea will only make things harder, says the Guardian. This type of brinkmanship is nothing new – and the paper points out the ‘dire’ warnings that greeted China and others joining the ‘nuclear club’. Trump, however, is ‘not most people’, the Guardian argues – saying that the president’s words were ‘strikingly reminiscent of the bluster of North Korea itself’. Even this comparison, suggests the paper, isn’t quite fair on Pyongyang: the country’s statements ‘are calculated, not cavalier’. Not so with Trump, says the paper, which suggests the President ‘offers ad-libbed soundbites from