- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 31, 2016

North Korea’s state media published a op-ed slamming Hillary Clinton and praising Donald Trump on Tuesday, roughly two weeks after the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said he’d be open to direct talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to try to halt the communist nation’s nuclear program.

The commentary describing Mr. Trump as “wise” and Mrs. Clinton as “dull” came amid a flurry of other developments Tuesday that saw a top North Korea official arrive for a visit to China just as Pyongyang carried out yet another failed ballistic missile launch — its fourth such unsuccessful test in two months.

“In my personal opinion, there are many positive aspects to the Trump’s ‘inflammatory policies,’” Han Yong Mook, who identified himself as a Chinese North Korean scholar, wrote in the op-ed published by DPRK Today, a tourism propaganda website run by the government in Pyongyang.

“Trump said ‘he will not get involved in the war between the South and the North.’ Isn’t this fortunate from North Koreans’ perspective?” Mr. Han asked, according to NK News, a Washington-based North Korea news website.

The writer relished particularly in remarks Mr. Trump made during a March speech in which he said he’d consider withdrawing the some 30,000 American military troops based in South Korea if Seoul does not start paying more for its own defense costs.

“Yes do it, now,” Mr. Han’s op-ed said. “Who knew that the slogan ‘Yankee Go Home’ would come true like this? The day when the ‘Yankee Go Home’ slogan becomes real would be the day of Korean unification.”

The commentary did not necessarily reflect North Korea’s official line. But the fact that Pyongyang’s censors allowed its publication suggests the Kim government may be sending out a trial balloon in hopes of stirring up international debate, or influencing in the U.S. race.

The writer also slammed Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic presidential front-runner, for supposedly favoring the “Iranian model” to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear programs rather that direct leader-to-leader talks.

The Han editorial left at least some U.S. Korea experts puzzled.

Victor Cha, a former top adviser to President George W. Bush at the Center for Strategic International Studies, said he simply couldn’t “explain the North Korea comments about Trump.”

Mr. Trump’s comments on direct talks with North Korea reflect “inexperience with the issue — the presumption that talking to them is the obstacle to denuclearization,” Mr. Cha said in an email. “That’s never been the problem. The problem is that they don’t want to give up their weapons, no matter how much or at what level we are willing to talk to them.”

The Obama administration has pursued a policy of “strategic patience” toward North Korea. There has been almost no dialogue with Pyongyang since it pulled out of multinational aid-for-disarmament negotiations in 2008.

The White House has said it may be willing to resume those negotiations, but only if Pyongyang commits to the aim of giving up its nuclear weapons — a demand Mr. Kim has responded to by ramping up his nuclear program.

Separately, Japan’s Kyodo News Agency reported North Korea’s former foreign minister Ri Su-yong, who was recently promoted to a high-level post in the nation’s Politburo, had arrived Tuesday China for high-level talks over the coming days. While it was unclear what may come of the talks, the visit marks the first time a high-ranking North Korean has appeared in Beijing since Pyongyang’s January test.

• Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report.

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