North Korea slammed US President Donald Trump as “incurably mentally deranged” in a personal attack ahead of his first visit to Asia, as the South’s leader insisted Washington could not take military action on the peninsula without his agreement. The US has 28,500 troops stationed in the South to defend it from the North, Trump dubbed Kim “Rocket Man” in the same speech – Pyongyang has tested missiles apparently capable of reaching much of the US mainland – and days later Kim responded with a personal statement calling him a “dotard”, an obscure term for a weak or senile old man. Washington has deployed key military assets including jet fighters and aircraft carriers near the peninsula following the North’s sixth nuclear test in September, which also saw the United Nations impose an eighth set of sanctions on the isolated country. South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday said his country would not develop or possess nuclear weapons, unlike its neighbour. In his address to the National Assembly Moon, who has advocated engagement to bring the North to the negotiating table, insisted: “There should be no military action on the peninsula without our prior consent.” Pyongyang hails its nuclear arsenal as a “treasured sword” to protect itself from potential invasion by its “imperialist enemy” the US, but has threatened to bracket the US Pacific island of Guam with missiles.
Trump’s itinerary includes Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines, with all eyes on his message to the North and Kim. In the South Trump is due to address parliament, visit a US military base, and hold a summit with Moon, although he will not go to the Demilitarised Zone that divides the two Koreas.