North Korea 'trying to work out if Donald Trump is crazy', says US negotiator

Pyongyang wants to know if US President Donald Trump is “crazy”, according to a senior US academic who has held secret back channel talks with North Korean officials four times over the past year. “They want to know if he’s crazy…or if this is just an act,” Suzanne DiMaggio, a director at the New America think tank told Politico in an interview. In meetings spanning Geneva, Pyongyang, Oslo and Moscow, North Koreans have focused on the president’s “erratic behaviour,” she said. “They really want to know what his end game is.” They have raised Mr Trump’s domestic troubles, including the investigation into possible campaign collusion with Russia and its potential threat to his presidency, and questioned Mr Trump’s undercutting of his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asking if it is a game of “good cop, bad cop”. For years Ms DiMaggio, who specialises in talking with rogue regimes, and Joel Wit, a former US diplomat who founded the influential North Korea-monitoring website 38North, have been quietly meeting the North Koreans to talk about their nuclear programme. North Korea | Kim Jong-un’s fiery relationship with the US In the past, they have declined to speak publicly about the so-called “Track 2” talks, which have kept a line open to the rogue regime even during times of official diplomatic isolation. They appear to have broken their silence amid growing alarm about name-calling and military escalation between the US and North Korea in the Trump era. The interview with Ms DiMaggio follows a new war of words after Mr Trump rose to the bait and called North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “short and fat” in response to the young dictator’s regime calling him a “lunatic old man.” Kim Jong-un's regime called Donald Trump a "lunatic old man" Credit: Reuters Analysts believe the low-brow insults undermined Mr Trump’s earlier statesmanlike approach during a tour of Asia, when he indicated the door could be open to talks. Ms DiMaggio later summed up the interview through her own Twitter account. “The US needs to pursue/exhaust every diplomatic option available to avert the possibility of a nuclear war with a regime that believes it’s in survival mode,” she said.

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