Kim Jong Un

In the Korea Talks, Why Kim Jong Un Can't Lose

Jan 9, 2018

North and South Korea have just held their first high-level meeting in two years to discuss the North's participation in the upcoming Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. These talks follow months of tension and escalating rhetoric over the North's continued nuclear and ballistic missile tests. Since his inauguration in May, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has sought to engage with the North, and when Kim Jong Un finally opened the door to negotiations last week, the South eagerly agreed.

Updated at 1:55 a.m. ET

President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are once again publicly comparing the size of their respective nuclear arsenals, with the president tweeting that the U.S. "nuclear button" is "much bigger & more powerful" than the one controlled by Pyongyang.

In his annual New Year's address on Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned the United States that his country's completed nuclear arsenal is now a button-push away.

"The U.S. should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my table," he said, according to the Associated Press translation, in a speech carried by state television. "The entire area of the U.S. mainland is within our nuclear strike range. ... The United States can never start a war against me and our country."

The weekend saw an escalation in the war of words between Washington and Pyongyang, complete with a U.S. show of military might over the waters near North Korea and jitters over what seismologists say was an earthquake near a North Korean nuclear test site.

Updated at 2:45 p.m. ET

President Trump delivered a stern warning to North Korea's leader at the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday.

The blast was picked up by seismic stations all over the world, and it was big.

Updated at 4:00 p.m. ET Sunday:

North Korea claims it has again tested a hydrogen bomb underground and that it "successfully" loaded it onto the tip of an intercontinental ballistic missile, a claim that if true, crosses a "red line" drawn by South Korea's president last month.

In a state media announcement, North Korea confirmed the afternoon tremors in its northeast were indeed caused by the test of a nuclear device, and that leader Kim Jong Un personally signed off on the test.

Updated at 6:50 p.m. ET

"Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely," President Trump said on Friday, in his latest salvo in the exchange of rhetoric with the isolated regime.

Trump added, "Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!"

Updated at 1 p.m. ET

As the leaders of two nuclear-armed countries trade threats, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says President Trump "is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn't seem to understand diplomatic language."

What makes North Korea feel so oppressive? If you ask its highest-ranking defector in decades, the answer is censorship. Thae Yong Ho, who was until last summer a Pyongyang envoy in London, argues that increasing the flow of information into the North is what can sow the seeds of popular discord to bring down the Kim Jong Un regime.