President Donald Trump shook with anger at the mere mention of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un. A new ballistic missile had just been launched and the president felt spited by a nation he now believes is all-out for war.
Emerging from a meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis, Trump hinted at a possible military response, saying the United States and its allies would do everything within their means to ward off threats.
Not even the clear skies above Washington, D.C., that Monday morning could pacify the visibly furious president. He accused North Korea of begging for war, saying Kim would be met with full force. In his characteristic style, he went ballistic on Twitter, saying Kim would not be allowed to destroy the U.S.
The missile launch on September 3 2017 added to Trump’s unpleasant week. He had just weathered criticism over his handling of Hurricanes Hugo and Irma. Again, he was desperate to cut deals with Democrats over the debt ceiling. The same week, he announced an end to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), an Obama-era program that protects many immigrants brought to this country illegally as minors from possible deportation.
But Trump delayed the end of DACA until next March, giving Congress six months to save or alter it. Perhaps, with this delaying action, the president wanted to prove that he is not all-out to undo every core legacy achievement of his predecessor Barack Obama.
Everything else aside, the nuclear weapons issue is a much bigger problem than just a political pawn..
According to the Federation of American Scientists, Russia and the United States are leading in possession of nuclear weapons, at 7,000 and 6,800, respectively. Other countries are France, with 300; China, 270; the United Kingdom, 215; Pakistan, 130; India, 110; and Israel, 80. Due to the secrecy of North Korea, the extent of its stockpiles is unknown.
As things are now, Trump should call a sober debate and explain why the United States needs its stockpiles. He should not appear to be seeking to make political capital out of it using North Korea.
Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, says that apart from North Korea, Russia and China are a threat because of their large nuclear stockpiles. Has Trump initiated meaningful talks with Chinese and Russian authorities over this?
“Threats by Trump do not help, they only add to the tension,” Kimball says, adding that the United States requires $1.5 trillion over the next 30 years to maintain its nuclear stockpiles. In Kimball’s words, he has never been more scared in 25 years, hinting to fears over the trajectory of the nuclear debate. .
As a keen observer of the U.S.-North Korea spat, I urge caution. The nuclear issue is such a serious matter that requires Trump to rise above his usual drama to get the job done.
The president should invite every arm of government, the media, diplomats as well as experts to seek views on how best the matter should be sorted out. Merely issuing one threat after another is akin to shadow boxing that only exposes the United States to unwarranted ridicule.