North Korean leaders want to know if Donald Trump is crazy

North Korean officials are uncertain whether Trump is crazy, or if he'll even be president for much longer

Published November 13, 2017 10:13AM (EST)

 (Getty/Justin Sullivan)
(Getty/Justin Sullivan)

A new report reveals that North Korean leaders are genuinely uncertain if President Donald Trump is crazy — but they do know that his actions are only increasing the risk of armed conflict between the United States and their country.

Suzanne DiMaggio, a scholar at New America who has spent nearly two decades engaged in secret conversations with North Korea, claimed that the North Korean leaders "want to know if he’s crazy or if this is just an act," according to Politico. She made it clear that North Korean leaders are confused about Trump's "end game" and are following everything he does closely in the hope of learning more.

One example of the type of erratic leadership that has confused and concerned North Koreans are presidential tweets like this one.

"They follow the news very closely; they watch CNN 24/7; they read his tweets and other things," DiMaggio told Politico.

Some foreign policy scholars have speculated that Trump is implementing his own version of what President Richard Nixon referred to as the madman theory. During the Cold War, Nixon claimed he could exert his will over the Soviet Union and North Vietnam by sending out indications that he could be "crazy" enough to drop a nuclear weapon on their countries. According to the theory, it would compel America's adversaries to come to the bargaining table because they couldn't trust Nixon to possess the good sense necessary to avoid starting a nuclear war.

There are other factors besides Trump's tweeting and insults that have raised North Korean eyebrows. Because of Trump's unwillingness to abide by the Iranian nuclear treaty, the North Korean leadership doesn't know if the president would honor any deal that he struck with them. They're also not sure if the ongoing Russia scandal will take him down in the near future.

"They question his erratic behavior, and also his mounting problems here at home, with the investigation being conducted by Robert Mueller, and they are asking, ‘Why should we begin negotiations with the Trump administration, when Donald Trump may not be president much longer?’" DiMaggio told Politico.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. He specializes in covering science and history, and is particularly passionate about climate change, animal science, disability rights, plastic pollution and a wide range of political issues. He has interviewed many prominent figures (reflecting his diverse interests) including President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), actress Cady McClain ("All My Children"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges Benjamin (2002-present), comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2") and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Donald Trump Kim Jong Un North Korea