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Chairman Kim Goes Back on Script

US President Donald Trump's made-for-TV "bromance" with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has played out more or less as most experts expected. The North Koreans have milked the Trump administration for all its worth, and are now returning to the same old strategy of bluster, threats, and nuclear brinkmanship.

ATLANTA – Like the leading character in a long-running television series, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has kicked off the latest crisis on the Korean Peninsula with familiar theatrics. After cutting off all communications with South Korea earlier this month, the Kim regime bombed the building in which it had previously hosted South Korean diplomats. It has redeployed troops into demilitarized border areas and issued renewed threats of violence against the South. The latest displays of bombast follow Kim’s scene-stealing performance in May, when he announced that North Korea would boost its investment in “nuclear war deterrence.”

For its part, US President Donald Trump’s administration has ignored the latest episode, and for good reason. After two years of playing along with Trump’s made-for-TV summitry, Kim is convinced that the “bromance” storyline has run its course, and that an older narrative will keep his ratings up.

Having banked his political gains from Trump’s fecklessness, Kim is now unambiguously asserting North Korea’s status as a nuclear power. To drive that point home, he has promoted the general in charge of the nuclear program to serve as vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, while also rewarding 69 other generals who have contributed to the country’s strategic success in recent years.

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