A Weeping Kim Jong Un May Hand Donald Trump an Unexpected Pre-Election Diplomatic Triumph

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was seen shedding tears and apologizing to his people Saturday for not creating a better economy, prompting many observers to say the rare show of emotion is a signal the tough Trump administration sanctions have worked.

Video emerged Saturday showing Kim crying during a military parade speech he made to mark the 75th anniversary of the ruling Worker's Party. Kim wiped away tears as he addressed thousands of troops and weeping citizens in Pyongyang. He announced he was "ashamed" of not being able to repay his people with economic prosperity. U.S. President Donald Trump is credited with imposing tough sanctions on the country and convincing China, North Korea's closest ally, to participate in a long-term strategy to force North Korea into denuclearization negotiations.

Talks focused on total nuclear disarmament broke down entirely in early 2019, but some U.S. officials say North Korea's economic woes could leave Kim no other choice but to give in to Trump's demands.

In 2012, Kim vowed to boost the country's nuclear program and to kickstart the economy. But on Saturday it appeared he has only accomplished one of those goals as he unveiled several massive missiles. Moments later he began weeping and taking responsibility for the crumbling economy. In a testament to Kim's conflicted stance, a 2018 CIA report said Kim is unlikely to halt his nuclear program—but would consider opening a burger joint in Pyongyang.

Heavy U.S. and Chinese sanctions along with Kim's focus on nuclear weaponry have hurt North Korea's economy, foreign policy experts say. The latest video of Kim crying may show the leader regrets choosing weaponry over the economy, particularly under the weight of the Trump-led sanctions.

"It is important to look at why he has come to shed tears at such an occasion," Hong Min, director of the North Korea division at the Korean Institute for National Unification, told the Korea Times. "Underneath his message, one can sense that Kim is feeling a lot of pressure on his leadership."

The sanctions have slowed Kim's grandiose construction projects and the international trade plans he announced in 2012.

Some foreign policy analysts and Trump supporters say the rare show of emotion from the "strongman" leader may be a sign Trump's sanction efforts are working and Kim is willing to capitulate on U.S. demands for nuclear disarmament.

"Our people have placed trust, as high as the sky and as deep as the sea, in me, but I have failed to always live up to it satisfactorily. I am really sorry for that," the 36-year-old dictator said Saturday, according to a translation in the Korea Times.

"Although I am entrusted with the important responsibility to lead this country upholding the cause of the great Comrades Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il thanks to the trust of all the people, my efforts and sincerity have not been sufficient enough to rid our people of the difficulties in their lives."

A U.S. intelligence official told The Guardian Monday that it's "disappointing" Kim continues to prioritize nuclear and ballistic missiles over the economy as U.S. disarmament talks remain deadlocked. Back in May 2018, before negotiations broke down, North Korea said it was willing to negotiate with Trump "at any time, at any format."

Joseph Yun, former U.S. special representative for North Korea policy and current member of the think tank U.S. Institute of Peace, said Kim and Trump may be able to make a smaller deal, "but in my view Trump has to have a big deal."

Although Saturday's video is the first tangible proof that Kim is upset and apologetic about his country's economic failings, it is not the first time such a report has surfaced. In May 2018, the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun quoted an unnamed defector who said Kim was seen crying over his inability to jumpstart the North Korean economy. The report said Kim cried as part of a documentary intended to educate party officials on how distraught the dictator had become over the country's economic situation—something he has vowed to improve after taking over from his late father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011.

The initial 2018 report about Kim crying came just as Trump canceled a summit with Kim in Singapore, where the two intended to discuss denuclearization efforts.

The Trump administration said at the time that the president canceled the Singapore meeting because of a statement made by Choe Son Hui, North Korea's vice minister of foreign affairs: "Meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown."

In 2018, Trump declared he had "largely solved" the North Korea missile crisis amid several threats and tests being conducted inside the secretive country. The president said outright that "there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea." But the presentation of large, previously unseen ICBMs at Saturday's military parade has cast doubt on this claim and prompted foreign policy experts and Trump critics to say the president has botched the negotiations entirely.

Former White House national security adviser John Bolton has repeatedly warned that North Korea "will never give up nuclear weapons voluntarily."

Newsweek reached out to the White House for additional remarks Tuesday morning.

kim jong un cry economy
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was seen shedding tears and apologizing to his people Saturday for not creating a better economy, prompting many witnesses to say the rare show of emotion is a signal that Trump administration sanctions have worked. Screenshot: North Korea News | YouTube