APD Review: Reckless, belligerent Trump compounds DPRK nuclear conundrum

BY APDAug 10,2017 at 13:53


By APD writer Lu Jiafei

For the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), after years of relentless verbal bashing rarely stirring up response from Washington, it finally finds a good listener in Donald Trump.

For Trump, the most “genuine president and the most nonpolitician president” as recently acclaimed by one of his top national security advisers, he never shies away from counter-punching in the most direct way.

And for the world, the combination of the two gives it a heart attack.

This photo taken on February 13, 2017 shows people in Pyongyang watching a public broadcast

This photo taken on February 13, 2017 shows people in Pyongyang watching a public broadcast

Tuesday began with menacing news reports claiming the U.S. intelligence community believes that the DPRK had successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead to be loaded on its missiles.

When later asked by a reporter about the DPRK’s nuclear capabilities, Trump, currently in the midst of a 17-day sojourn at Trump National Golf Course in New Jersey, found it instead necessary to respond to the DPRK’s bellicosity with extreme language.

“(The DPRK) best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” said Trump.

DPRK leader Kim Jong-un

DPRK leader Kim Jong-un

“He (DPRK leader Kim Jong-un) has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,” Trump stressed.

Trump’s chilling language was a major break from his predecessors’ usually firm but measured response to the DPRK nuclear issue, and appeared to echo the favorite phase of “sea of fire” adopted by the DPRK when warning the United States against any pre-emptive attacks.

What’s worse, Trump’s rant of “fire and fury” reminds the world of the language used by former U.S. President Harry Truman in 1945, when he said that if the Japanese did not surrender after U.S. dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, “they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”

It remains unclear what the Trump’s intention with White House officials again declining to respond to reporters’ requests for comments, and the stark differences between Trump’s remarks and those of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson only compound a security situation at risk of slipping into catastrophe.

Just one day before Trump’s menacing remarks on the DPRK, a more conciliatory Tillerson said at an event in Manila that the United Sates regarded the halting of missile launches by the DPRK as “the best signal” that the Pyongyang is prepared to talk.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Tillerson also said that any dialogue would deal with how the DPRK could “feel secure and prosper economically.”

Apart from Tillerson, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had also repeatedly warned that any war on the Korean Peninsula would be “tragic on an unbelievable scale.”

And all of a sudden, Trump nullifies his Cabinet’s measured response and remarks with his typically blustery words which appeared to be attached to no strategy whatsoever.

In a time of tense situation, such recklessness and belligerence would lead to miscalculation by the other side, and in an era of nuclear weapons, the results would be catastrophic.

According to Laura Rosenberger, director for China and Korea at the National Security Council under former President Barack Obama and a member of the "six-party talks" delegation on the DPRK’s nuclear program in the George W. Bush administration, the DPRK is most likely to parse every word of Trump’s comments to try to understand what they mean.

“The problem is, it’s not clear that Trump has any idea what his intentions are. He is sending signals that foreign officials will attach meanings to - meanings he may not have intended and might not even realize he’s sending,” Rosenberger wrote in an article for the Washington Post.

After spending one year in Palestine covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict between 2013 and 2014, Jiafei Lu moved to Washington, D.C. in 2015 and started covering the U.S. presidential election till the very end of Donald Trump's upset victory early November, 2016. He is a political contributor to APD and a researcher of APD Institute.


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