• Nick Ng

Donald Trump x Kim Jong Un: A Match Made in Heaven?

Donald Trump has a huge online presence. We all know this. When confronted with any sort of problem or political issue, The Donald has shown a tendency to take to Twitter in order to opine in the online presence of much of the civilised world. While many of us may not agree with this sort of behaviour from the Leader of the Free World, this is a different matter of which I will not speak in this article.

Many will remember the fairly recent war of words between Mr Trump and Kim Jong Un, the controversial leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), in various speeches and Twitter posts, in which both leaders traded stinging barbs and overt threats against each other and their respective nations. Particularly notable is Mr Trump’s maiden speech to the UN, which the Evening Standard described as, ‘ramping up the rhetoric.’ It was on this occasion that Trump stated in front of delegations from around the globe that he would ‘totally destroy’ North Korea. Mr Kim’s response was none too benevolent, as he called Mr Trump a ‘mentally deranged… dotard,’ and announced that he would, ‘surely and definitely tame [Mr Trump] with fire.’ Clearly, both leaders have their differences with one another which they must solve in such juvenile manners.

To me there appear to be startling similarities between these two controversial national leaders, especially when producing dangerous insults and not-so-subtle barbs in, what appears to me, to be a totally inappropriate fashion for such important figures as these. The evidence is before us: both Mr Trump and Mr Kim, goaded on by one another, like to play with that fire which is the apparently volatile temper of their counterpart. In my opinion, this is wholly inappropriate, and completely the incorrect method of dealing with one another. In delicate situations such as these which we find in international relations, it is my belief that at least some measure of subtlety and delicacy is required. While some may scoff at the mere idea that the DPRK or the USA would declare formal war against one another, I do not think that war is unfeasible, and, as such, the obvious provocations as seen here are made even more inappropriate. Neither Mr Kim’s nor Mr Trump’s words and threats ought to be taken lightly.

However, we have seen recently that the two leaders have made headway in improving the historically hostile relationship between the USA, and by extension the West as a whole, and the DPRK despite earlier antagonism. Most notably, the two leaders met in June for a monumental summit in Singapore and appeared to find a reasonable level of amicability with one another. So much so, that the Financial Times reports just this week on Mr Trump’s ‘love’ for the North Korean leader, and of North Korean ‘praise’ for Mr Trump’s style of diplomacy.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un meet at their historic summit in Singapore, June 2018
Improved US - DPRK relations

Therefore, the question which must be raised is this: how has the now anachronistically antagonistic relationship between the USA and the DPRK improved in such a short time to such an extent that the leaders of either nation would be willing to meet, and continually praise one another? The evolution of this relationship within the past year alone is fascinating, which I believe can be put down to the similarities between the two leaders. Mr Kim is treated as the ‘Supreme Leader,’ a position entailing almost godlike power. He is viewed as the ultimate power within the DPRK, but whether or not this is as a result of coercion is irrelevant at this current time.

Mr Trump is viewed similarly fanatically among certain citizens of the USA. He has managed to build something of a cult following among a particular class of people in his country, which largely led to his success in the 2016 Presidential Election. Both leaders appear to share similar leadership traits. However, Mr Kim’s position tends to be stronger due to the political landscape of the DRPK. Mr Trump does not enjoy such a luxury, due to the oftentimes fickle public opinion which governs US politics. This means that Mr Kim has more room to pursue policies which may be more unpopular, yet face less opposition or backlash, compared to Mr Trump who faces more inherent restrictions.

Yet both leaders are often labelled xenophobic, as seen with Mr Trump’s infamous threats to ‘build a wall’ to prevent Mexican and other immigrants from entering the USA, as well as Mr Kim’s strict policies governing entrance and exit from his country. Both leaders apparently dislike any differing opinion to their own; though this should be implied overtly. Perhaps most obviously, however, both leaders appear to have somewhat volatile tempers, and are partial to throwing threats and infantile insults, at one time at each other.

It seems to me therefore that both Mr Trump and Mr Kim are actually surprisingly similar, and I would attribute the recent successes in their relationship, and by extension the relationship between the USA and the DPRK, largely to those similarities on a personal level which then led to their friendliness at their summit in Singapore earlier this year. With this, I hope that we may see an gradually improving relationship between the West and the DRPK. However, I would certainly advise that we continue to treat the situation with the metaphorical kid gloves, in order to not impinge progress in this matter.

At the time of writing, Nick Ng is due to begin studying for a degree in Modern Chinese at Cardiff University in September 2019, while taking a Gap Year from September 2018 to June 2019. The areas that interest him most are UK Defence strategy and Eastern-Western relations.