Aide: Obama seeks to starve North Korean leader of attention
WASHINGTON— North Korean leader Kim Jong Un triggered a diplomatic earthquake with his nation’s latest nuclear test a week ago. But it didn’t register when President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union speech. Nor did it get a mention when top U.S. diplomat John Kerry delivered a globe-spanning foreign policy speech on Wednesday.
And here’s why: The Obama administration doesn’t want to give the unpredictable Kim the satisfaction.
“The fact of the matter is, if there’s one thing I know about the leader of North Korea, it’s that he likes attention,” Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser, told reporters.
“He’d probably like nothing more than the president spending a lot of time talking about him at the State of the Union. We didn’t feel particularly compelled to give him that attention, because frankly, the way you show strength in the world should not be defined by the occasional provocative launch or test of a device while your own people are starving,” Rhodes said.
Critics have accused Obama of not paying enough attention on North Korea, which has conducted three nuclear test explosions since he took office in 2009. While there’s widespread skepticism about the North’s claim to have tested a hydrogen bomb, whatever it detonated will likely push the isolated country closer toward having a nuclear weapon that can threaten America.
Despite not getting a mention in Obama’s annual address to Congress, North Korea is a “huge priority” for the president, Rhodes said. He said Obama has called regional leaders and is personally overseeing how the U.S. responds to the test. Both the U.N. Security Council and the U.S. Congress are looking to impose more sanctions on Pyongyang.
The young Kim, meanwhile, has been milking the Jan. 6 underground explosion as a propaganda victory at home. State media on Monday showed him praising his scientists and vowing more nuclear bombs a day after the U.S. flew a powerful nuclear-capable warplane close to the North in a show of force.
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