Nicholas Kristoff, a veteran columnist for the New York Times, recently went to North Korea’s capital, Pyongyang, and witnessed billboard after billboard of propaganda rhetoric that was all geared toward North Korea destroying The United States, reports American Military News.

“‘There was a menace in the air. There were these billboards showing the destruction of the US. There was much more rhetoric about the US as the enemy,’ Kristof told host Michael Barbaro from ‘The Daily’ podcast. ‘I left feeling that there is a real risk of a war that would be just catastrophic and that we may be headed for miscalculations on both sides that make a war not likely, but a significant possibility.’”

Kristoff has been to North Korea before, once in 1989 and 2005, but noticed that each time differed from the last. In Thursday’s episode of the New York Times’ daily podcast, “The Daily,” he said he saw military parades almost every day and would pass images of missiles striking the U.S.

Kristoff remarked on the elaborate new Korean War museum along on of the sprawling, Communist-style boulevards in Pyongyang.  The museum’s message was simple enough according to Kristoff: to accuse America of using biological weapons in warfare and committing atrocities worse than Hitler.

Kristoff also got a rare, sit down interview with one of North Korea’s top officials, Foreign Ministry official Choe Kang-il.

They spoke about Otto Warmbier, that University of Virginia student who after steeling a poster was detained by police in North Korea and kept in custody.  When he was returned to the U.S. he was in a coma and died shortly after being freed.

Kang-il showed no sign of remorse for the dead student and even praised the North Korean hospital staff and all of their efforts since Warmbier did not have any bed sores when he was sent home.

“The U.S. administration, or some people with a certain intention, let him die,” Kang-il said. “This must be intended to foster and spread anti-Communist hatred within America.”

Kang-il did not hold back on his commentary about President Trump either.  He called Trump “a thug” and  “a pathetic man with a big mouth.”

On Saturday, Trump tweeted that “Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years…but only one thing will work!”

This kind of rhetoric has worried some about the escalation of possible war between the U.S. and North Korea, but Trump is determined to stand his ground and show the U.S. and its military are not afraid of Kim Jong Un.

Trump’s tweets and outspokenness about the North Korean regime has had a profound effect on the ground in Pyongyang.

“North Korea has always been big on propaganda and propaganda scenes, but the level of hostility to the US and the degree to which this has emerged as a theme is different from the way it was before,” Kristof said on The Daily. “There’s much more menace in the air.”

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BY Isabelle Weeks

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I am a staff writer for DC Statesman and like to report on current events happening in the Trump administration as well as the political world.