Special to WorldTribune.com
By Donald Kirk
WASHINGTON – An anonymous attack on President Donald Trump in The New York Times has captured headlines across the United States while Americans more or less forget about what’s going on elsewhere in the world.
The attack, in the form of a commentary on the paper’s “opinion” page, purportedly by a “senior” official in the Trump administration, castigates Trump’s “leadership style” as “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective.” The writer claims to represent “the resistance inside the Trump administration” that is acting to “thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”
The Times self-righteously asserts that “publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.” The fact is, however, the letter appears as just another instance of the paper’s hatred for Trump, who is regularly excoriated on its editorial and opinion pages and targeted by supposedly “objective” reporting on its news pages.
Although the commentary offers few factual details, it does touch briefly on Korea by observing that Trump “shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-Un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.”
That line appears as especially hypocritical since the Times has consistently advocated soft-line, liberal solutions to confrontations ranging from eastern Europe and Russia to the Korean peninsula. The paper has strongly supported moves toward appeasing North Korea in the search for reconciliation and dialogue between North and South Korea and also between the U.S. and North Korea.
With Trump and his aides denouncing the commentary’s anonymous author as a “coward” and “gutless,” the furor swept the headlines while the case of a North Korean coder who had succeeded in wreaking havoc on computer systems and programs around the world was secondary news. The U.S. justice department charged Park Jin-Hyok, a North Korean programmer who worked for a company named Chosun Expo Joint Venture notorious for a program called “Lab 110.”
Park and his colleagues, not named in the criminal complaint, achieved one of their greatest triumphs by breaking into Sony’s system in retaliation for Sony producing and distributing the film “The Interview,” a wild satire on North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Un and those around him. Widely known as “the Lazarus Group,” Lab 110 demanded Sony withdraw the film, claiming to have “obtained all your internal data including your secrets and top secrets” and threatening to destroy data “if you don’t obey us.”
While the case against Park Jin-Hyok was indeed compelling, American newspaper readers and TV viewers were far more concerned about the impact of the commentary in The New York Times. Trump, besides denouncing the Times for publishing the letter, got most senior members of his administration to deny that they had had anything to do with it.
While focusing on the commentary, Americans were largely unaware of President Moon Jae-in’s plan to visit Pyongyang on September 18 for his third summit with Kim Jong-un. The fact that Moon is sure to be pressing Kim to agree to a second summit with Trump was largely ignored in the U.S. media.
Nonetheless, Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, talked on the phone with Chung Eui-Yong, the top security adviser in the Blue House, on his visit to Pyongyang in which he arranged for Moon to go to Pyongyang for a two-day visit. Chung on getting back said that Kim had expressed his desire for resolution of the nuclear issue before Trump completes his first term as president.
Trump appeared delighted to know that Kim was committed to “complete denuclearization” as agreed in his summit with Kim in Singapore nearly three months ago, but Bolton is believed to have been warning him not to fall so easily for North Korean promises. Bolton is believed skeptical of North Korea’s insistence on a “step by step” process in which the U.S. agrees to scale down its forces in Korea while the North does little or nothing about denuclearization.
Bolton and others in the U.S. administration still demand “complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization” before going along with North Korea’s eagerness for agreement to a “peace declaration” and ultimately a treaty in place of the armistice that ended the Korean War.
The fear among U.S. officials is that Trump may not grasp what Kim is trying to do. The anonymous commentary in The New York Times quoted “a top official,” also unnamed, as saying “There is literally no telling whether he might change his mind from one minute to the next.”
Senior officials “privately admit their daily disbelief at the commander in chief’s comments and actions,” said the commentary. “Most are working to insulate their operations from his whims.”