By Yi Wonju
SEOUL, Nov. 2 (Yonhap) -- For many years, North Korea has exchanged rhetorical tit-for-tat with leaders across the world, and U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden are no exception.
But while Trump has managed to turn the tide through a series of three historical meetings with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Biden has remained highly critical of the North throughout his presidential campaign.
Biden's latest criticism came in late October during the second U.S. presidential debate, when he called Kim a "thug" and accused Trump of giving Kim the legitimacy and global recognition he desired through the summits.
He even compared Kim to Adolf Hitler, saying the United States had a "good relationship with (Adolf) Hitler before he, in fact, invaded the rest of Europe."
Experts say the North must be keenly following this week's U.S. presidential elections and is likely to be more supportive of Trump's reelection as Biden is expected to be a more challenging counterpart in nuclear negotiations.
"Recently, Biden called Kim a 'thug' and 'tyrant' in his second debate. These are some of the reasons why I think Kim Jong-un would be looking forward to President Trump winning rather than Biden," Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said.
North Korea's name-calling with Biden traces back to May last year, when Pyongyang bristled at Biden, calling him a "fool of low IQ" and an "imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being."
The insult carried by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) came in response to Biden's criticism of leader Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin as "dictators and tyrants" during his campaign speech.
The KCNA even raised decades-old allegations against Biden that he "received a grade of F" on a paper because he plagiarized another article as a university student. It also said that if Biden thinks he is the most popular presidential candidate, it is "enough to make a cat laugh."
Biden again became a target of insults in November 2019, when KCNA said in a commentary that "rabid dogs" like Biden "must be beaten to death with a stick."
Meanwhile, North Korea's invective against Trump has remained mild since Kim and Trump developed a close personal relationship through three historical meetings in 2018 and 2019.
But before that, Trump and Kim exchanged frequent insults against each other in 2017, when tensions escalated dangerously over North Korea's tests of long-range missiles. Kim called Trump "a mentally deranged U.S. dotard" in a rare direct statement against the U.S. president.
The insults turned even more ruthless as the two leaders attacked each other's physical qualities.
When Kim called Trump "an old lunatic" in November 2017, Trump tweeted: "Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?'"
The tide turned after Trump met Kim in Singapore in June 2018, becoming the first sitting U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader.
The two leaders have established a relationship through a top-down method of negotiation through the meetings, according to experts.
Since then, the North has toned down its criticism of Trump, expressing anger but avoiding any derisive insults and using mild phrases like "Trump would be well advised to quit abusive language."
Trump has since boasted of his close personal relationship with Kim, exchanging dozens of what he described as "love letters" and calling him "smart" and "sharp" despite a stalemate in nuclear talks between the two countries.
"If Trump is reelected, the North Korean leader is likely to immediately send a letter to Trump congratulating him on his victory," Yang said, adding that the North will push forward to drive the momentum for nuclear talks.
On the other hand, North Korea has a "painful memory" of Biden, he added.
Biden served as vice president under the Barack Obama administration when it employed the policy of "strategic patience," which centered on waiting for Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table while keeping sanctions and pressure in place.
Pyongyang is likely to prefer Trump's top-down nuclear diplomacy approach toward North Korea compared to Biden's bottom-up approach. Biden recently said he will keep pressing toward North Korea's denuclearization through "principled diplomacy."
Regardless of the results of the elections, South Korea should play an important role in improving inter-Korean relations and in propelling the momentum for nuclear talks after the elections, Yang said.
"Whether Trump is reelected or Biden gets elected, Kim will be looking forward to President Moon Jae-in's role as a mediator in relations between the U.S. and North Korea," the professor said.
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