A high-ranking North Korean defector has told President Donald Trump that the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has fooled him into believing he will denuclearize, while imploring the U.S. to stage a coup in Pyongyang, the Washington Times reported Thursday.
In a letter to Trump, the defector warned that Kim has “tricked” the U.S. and that the administration should authorize a “psychological warfare campaign” to entice North Korean elites to overthrown the young Kim.
The Times also reported that the defector urged President Trump to impose “all-out sanctions” against North Korea and prepare to carry out a “preemptive strike” against the North’s nuclear sites.
The Times noted that it received a copy of the letter.
The defector’s warning comes as North Korea has ramped up its bellicose rhetoric and missile development and testing in recent weeks as an unofficial end-of-the-year deadline approaches to restart stalled denuclearization talks.
Though President Trump’s outreach to North Korea was historic, there has been little progress made in convincing Kim to give up his nuclear weapons.
“As long as Kim Jong-un remains in power, denuclearization of North Korea is permanently impossible because [Mr. Kim] regards nuclear weapons as the last means to defend his survival,” the defector warned.
“You have stopped Kim Jong-un from launching missiles and conducting nuclear tests, but he is still mounting nuclear threats behind the scenes of dialogue and is attempting to take advantage of the relationship with you,” the defector wrote.
“The most effective way to resolve the North Korean issue is to conduct psychological warfare operations,” the letter continues.
“It can have the same power as a nuclear bomb. It is also an ideal way to get North Koreans to solve their own problems by themselves.”
The Times noted that White House officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Trump has often spoken of the “beautiful letters” he has received from Kim, though the contents of those letters have not been made public.
Trump made denuclearization of North Korea a foreign policy priority shortly after taking office. Initially, relations between him and Kim appeared rocky but eventually they smoothed enough for the two to meet.
In an interview with the Times, the defector said his warnings should be heeded because “I know and worked with the top players in [Pyongyang].”
A former U.S. official said the defector left North Korea about a year ago and has been providing U.S. intelligence officials with information about the Kim regime since. The paper said he’s well-known in national security circles.
The official said that it made sense the White House wouldn’t acknowledge the letter.
I don’t think they want any fingerprints on it,” the former official said. “If they acknowledge it and there’s a sense it is influencing U.S. policy or that Mr. Trump is taking the word of a defector over that of Kim Jong-un, it could undermine the president’s relationship with the North Korean leader.”