When President Trump Tweets, Here's What North Korea Sees

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In this Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, file photo, a man watches a television screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea.
Photo via Associated Press

As Donald Trump prides himself on being unpredictable, he may well be pleased with a new New Yorker report from Evan Osnos that found North Korea couldn't make heads or tails of the U.S. president.


Pak Song Il, the North Korean tasked with interpreting U.S. politics, statements, and military posture, told Osnos during a trip to Pyongyang that Trump had thrown him for a loop.

"When he speaks, I have to figure out what he means, and what his next move will be," Pak said. "This is very difficult."

"He might be irrational — or too smart. We don’t know," Pak said.

Of particular interest in North Korea was Trump's "fire and fury" comment, when he seemed to offhandedly suggest that further threats from North Korea would prompt its nuclear annihilation by the United States. According to Osnos, Pak figured Trump was employing a deceptive strategy "like the Chinese 'Art of War.'"

But other times are more frustrating, as Osnos describes in the New Yorker:

On the morning of August 17th, I awoke and found a new tweet from @realDonaldTrump: “Kim Jong Un of North Korea made a very wise and well reasoned decision. The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable.” What decision was the President referring to? After poking around online, I discovered that Trump had picked up on Kim’s comment that he “would watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” before deciding whether to fire missiles at Guam. To Trump, this was Kim standing down. He was pleased. (A few days later, Trump told a rally in Phoenix, “He is starting to respect us.”) But, it seemed, Trump was misreading the signals. “He only read one-half of the statement,” Pak said, in frustration.

But, it seemed, Trump was misreading the signals. “He only read one-half of the statement,” Pak said, in frustration.

North Korea acknowledges that unlike its own system, the U.S. relies more on consensus than whims of the leader.

"Is the American public ready for war?" Pak asked Osnos. "Does the Congress want a war? Does the American military want a war? Because, if they want a war, then we must prepare for that."

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