In the wake of a newly reported Defense Intelligence Agency analysis which concluded North Korea has successfully miniaturized a nuclear warhead for use on ICBMs, President Trump issued a simultaneously vague and hyperbolic threat. Speaking at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, the President stated that if North Korea’s ruler Kim Jong Un continued threatening the United States, “…[t]hey will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Overcoming natural reticence to offer Trump the benefit of the doubt, this “power” is presumably not intended to be unleashed (unzipped?) merely in response to Un’s repeated threats, but his choice of language unavoidably raises the specter of a nuclear strike by US forces. If this were any other president it would probably be written off as a gaffe, but given both Trump’s impulsiveness and his reported inability during the 2016 campaign to grasp why nuclear weapon use is undesirable, it is unlikely to be glossed over without further clarification by the administration.
It’s appears that Trump’s comments have already inflamed tensions. North Korea very quickly threatened to attack Guam, a US territory (about midway between Japan and Australia) which houses a number of military installations and has a population of nearly 175,000. Unfortunately, the top of the State Department has been largely unmanned since the current administration took power, so the institutional leadership necessary to implement even a radically aggressive stance of the sort Trump apparently desires simply does not exist. It would appear he is steering the ship of state into a storm he does not have the crew to handle.