The U.S. President ignited a stunning new showdown with North Korea late Tuesday, as Donald Trump boasted to volatile leader Kim Jong Un that he had a “much bigger & more powerful” nuclear weapon.
Trump’s flippant comments about his nuclear prowess — akin to “mine is bigger than yours” schoolyard taunts — raise new questions about whether the President has thought deeply about the awesome destructive power at his command.
His outburst also elevates Kim, leader of an impoverished autocracy using a nuclear program to ensure its survival, to a tit-for-tat confrontation alongside the President of the United States.
“Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Trump tweeted. The tweet was remarkable not just for its content but for the fact it was generated by a President, the holder of the office that for decades has been the effective guarantor of a US-enforced 70-year era of global peace. Before Trump, no US President has made such public and cavalier threats.
Trump’s gambit is all the more risky since it is likely to alienate US allies, anger key world powers like Russia and China that Washington needs to resolve the standoff and because no one knows how the unpredictable Kim will respond.
“To call it juvenile would be an insult to children,” retired Adm. John Kirby, a former State Department and Pentagon spokesman told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Tuesday. “I do think in the halls of the Pentagon and the State Department, there has got to be a lot of concern over this, because he is the President of the United States. His tweets are going to be taken as official policy,” said Kirby, now a CNN analyst. “There is no question they are going to lead to miscalculation and confusion over there.”