In a historic moment in world politics, leaders of two countries -- the United States and North Korea, who have never met before will do so in Singapore at 9 am on June 12. It is an unprecedented development, but the path to Sentosa Island where the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un will take place has been full of recriminations, accusations, bold rhetoric and hyperbole from both sides.
This summit can also be called the 'summit that never was' as it was first scheduled after an invite letter from Kim Jong-un was hand-delivered to Trump through South Korean emissaries. But, days later frothing-at-the-mouth rhetoric from both sides led Trump to cancel the summit. Trump did so by responding to Kim Jong-un via a personally-dictated letter.
In the letter Trump laid it on North Korea’s door that it was the country’s rhetoric in recent days that was responsible for the decision to cancel the summit: tremendous anger and open hostility displayed...You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.
After conciliatory noises from Pyongyang, Washington worked to reinstate the summit which will happen in Singapore today.
While Trump has chosen his favourite medium of twitter to let his thoughts be known, Kim Jong-un’s statements have come through the DPRK’s state news agency or recorded video broadcasts. Here’s a look at the war of words between the United States and North Korea that was seen over the past year.
October 1999: Donald Trump seems to have kept up with developments in the Korean peninsula because one of his first references to North Korea’s nuclear proliferation came way back in 1999. In an interview with the late Tim Russert on "Meet the Press," Trump said if he were president he would "negotiate like crazy" with North Korea. "The biggest problem this world has is nuclear proliferation," he said. "And we have a country out there — North Korea which is sort of wacko."
Tim Russert interviewing @realDonaldTrump in 1999 about launching a pre-emptive strike against North Korea.
Could be key to his thinking. pic.twitter.com/PRbDA9r6Jp
— Sven Henrich (@NorthmanTrader) June 20, 2017
Moving on to last year when Trump assumed office in January 2017, his statements on North Korea began amicably enough with calling Kim Jong-un a ‘smart cookie’ but by the end of year had deteriorated to threatening the DPRK with ‘fire and fury’.
January 1, 2017: During his annual address, Kim says North Korea is in the “final stages” of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile.
January 2, 2017: Trump, still weeks from his inauguration, tweets: “North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!”
February 12, 2017: North Korea tests a midrange ballistic missile in its first challenge to the Trump administration.
March 2, 2017: In an interview with the Financial Times, Trump warns that the United States will take unilateral action against North Korea if China doesn't step up to help.
March 5, 2017: North Korea launches four missiles. North Korea said its military units tasked with striking U.S. bases in Japan were involved in the test launch.
March 6, 2017: The United States calls North Korea “a pariah” and reaffirms its commitment to allies.
March 12, 2017: North Korea test fires four ballistic missiles.
March 18, 2017: North Korea conducts a rocket engine test.
April 4, 2017: North Korea fires a ballistic missile.
April 27, 2017: Donald Trump in an interview with Reuters: "As to whether or not he's rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he's rational."
April 30, 2017: Donald Trump in an interview just three days later with CBS showered praise on Kim Jong-un: "People are saying: 'Is he (Kim) sane?' I have no idea.... but he was a young man of 26 or 27... when his father died…And at a very young age, he was able to assume power. A lot of people, I'm sure, tried to take that power away, whether it was his uncle or anybody else. And he was able to do it. So obviously, he's a pretty smart cookie."
May 1, 2017: The U.S. President’s willingness to meet Kim Jong-un was expressed almost exactly a year ago when he said as much in an interview. In an interview with Bloomberg, Trump said he would be honoured to meet the North Korean leader. "If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely, I would be honoured to do it," Trump said. "If it's under the, again, under the right circumstances. But, I would do that,” he added.
July 2, 2017: North Korea tested an Inter-continental Ballistic Missile in July around the time U.S. celebrates its independence day. Kim Jong-un taunted the U.S. with
“The American bastards would not be very happy with this gift sent on this July 4 anniversary…[We will] frequently send small and big ‘gift packages’ to the Yankees.
July 3, 2017: Donald Trump’s commentary on DPRK’s taunt and decision to test the ICBM was mild enough.
North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea.....
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2017
....and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2017
August 2017: In August, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency described Trump as a leader who frequently tweets “weird articles of his ego-driven thoughts” and “spouts rubbish” to give his assistants a hard time, the Associated Press reported at the time. The KCNA also criticized South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo for “pinning hope on that mad guy,” referring to Trump.
August 8, 2017: This is what the U.S. President had to say:
"North Korea best not make any more threats to the US. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen."
President Trump: If North Korea makes any more threats to the U.S., "they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen" pic.twitter.com/8dQed79L1W
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 8, 2017
August 9,017: North Korea responds by saying it is reviewing plans to target the U.S. territory of Guam. “The nuclear war hysteria of the U.S. authorities including Trump has reached an extremely reckless and rash phase for an actual war,” said KCNA, North Korea's official state media.
August 10,017: Trump escalates his rhetoric, saying his earlier statement may not have been “tough enough.”
August 10: North Korea's state media swiftly reacted to Trump's remarks that the country risked "fire and fury". "Sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason and only absolute force can work on him."
Aug 11, 2017: Trump’s response was even more swift. He took to Twitter to warn North Korea: "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely."
Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2017
September 14,017: North Korea test fires a missile.
September 17, 2017: Trump taunts Kim on Twitter: “I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night. Asked him how Rocket Man is doing…”
I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night. Asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 17, 2017
Sept 19, 2017: Donald Trump brought up North Korea at his maiden speech at the United Nations General Assembly. He tells the United Nations that if the US is threatened: "We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea." He said while the US has "great strength and patience," its options could soon run out. Directly putting the country's leader on notice, Trump suggested Kim Jong Un could not survive an American attack. "Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself," he said.
September 22, 2017: Soon after Trump’s speech at the UNGA, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un issued a lengthy, scathing statement. “The mentally deranged behaviour of the US president openly expressing on the UN arena the unethical will to “totally destroy” a sovereign state, beyond the boundary of threats and regime change or overturn of social system, makes even those with normal thinking faculty think about discretion and composure…Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation. I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.” According to Merriam Webster, dotard refers to "a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise."
September 22, 2017: Trump's response came within hours of being called a ‘dotard’.
Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017
September 23, 2017: North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told the UN General Assembly that targeting the US mainland with its rockets was inevitable after "Mr Evil President."
September 23, 2017: Trump apparently heard what the North Korean minister had to say because he responded on Twitter.
Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2017
September 28, 2017: North Korea accused Trump of exploiting American student Otto Warmbier's death, calling the U.S. President an "old lunatic".
"The fact that the old lunatic Trump and his riff-raff slandered the sacred dignity of our supreme leadership, using bogus data full of falsehood and fabrications, only serves to redouble the surging hatred of our army and people towards the US and their will to retaliate thousand-fold," said a statement by the official KCNA news agency.
October 1, 2017: While U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in South Korea, Trump sent out two tweets first saying Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” and another later in the day saying he(Trump) “won't fail” to rein in Kim.
November 3, 2017: Donald Trump embarked on a 12-day trip to five different Asian nations -- Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. In South Korea, Trump issued a direct and personal warning to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
"The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer, they are putting your regime in grave danger," Trump said during an address at South Korea's National Assembly in Seoul. "Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face."
November 11, 2017: After reports surface that North Korean state media referred to Trump as a “lunatic old man,” Trump seemed to poke fun at Kim: "Why would Kim Jong Un insult me by calling me 'old' when I would never call him 'short and fat'? Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend - and maybe someday that will happen!"
Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me "old," when I would NEVER call him "short and fat?" Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend - and maybe someday that will happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 12, 2017
November 28, 2017: North Korea launches an early morning test of Hwasong-15 - its most advanced missile that purportedly puts the entire U.S .within reach. It was North Korea's 20th launch of a ballistic missile that year. Kim declared his country had "finally realised the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force".
November 28, 2017: In response to the missile test, Trump told reporters at the White House in response to North Korea's missile launch, "We will take care of it…I will only tell you that we will take care of it. … It is a situation that we will handle."
November 29, 2017: Within 24 hours of the launch, Trump announced increased sanctions on North Korea.
Just spoke to President XI JINPING of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea. Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2017
November 29, 2017: Later, during the day Trump also called Kim Jong-un a "sick puppy."
November 30, 2017: Post the sanctions, Trump taunted Kim again while saying that Russia and China condemned the missile test.
The Chinese Envoy, who just returned from North Korea, seems to have had no impact on Little Rocket Man. Hard to believe his people, and the military, put up with living in such horrible conditions. Russia and China condemned the launch.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2017
December 31, 2017: In a New Year's address, Kim warns the United States that he has a “nuclear button” on his desk. He also extends an olive branch to South Korea, saying he would be willing to consider talks between the two nations.
January 2, 2018: Rhetoric reached an unprecedented level when the U.S. president warned North Korea on Twitter that he has a "much bigger nuclear button."
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
Since then, relations between North and South Korea have seen a turn-around as delegations from both countries participated in Winter Olympics 2018 under one flag and a South Korean delegation met with Kim Jong-un earlier this week. But if history is any indicator, talks and negotiations with North Korea are anything but straightforward.