In the wake of what many perceived as an explicit threat to ignite a nuclear war on Tuesday, critics of President Donald Trump reacted with horror—calling it “frightening” and “crazy”—after the president threatened North Korea “with fire, fury, and frankly power the likes of which the world has never seen before.”
The statement came hours after several news outlets, citing internal U.S. intelligence assessments, reported that Kim Jong-un’s regime has successfully made a nuclear warhead small enough to fit inside its missiles, an advancement that was reached sooner than military experts had predicted—and one that added to concerns that North Korea could be capable of building a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could potentially reach the United States.
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“That this threat comes between the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki underlines the president’s dangerous lack of appreciation of the horror and evil of nuclear war.” —Jon Rainwater, PeaceActionTrump’s threat added to the concerns of many who have strongly urged diplomacy to de-escalate tensions between the U.S., North and South Korea, and others in the region.
“The president’s latest threat of ‘fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before,’ is clearly a reference to the use of nuclear weapons,” said Jon Rainwater, executive director of Peace Action. “That this threat comes between the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki underlines the president’s dangerous lack of appreciation of the horror and evil of nuclear war.”
He added, “‘Fire and fury’ isn’t a strategy. Painstaking and sustained diplomacy of the type that led to the Iran deal is the only viable option with North Korea. It won’t be easy but that’s why the U.S. needs to drop its current preconditions for talks and get down to the hard work of hammering out a settlement to this political crisis.”
Siegfried Hecker, the last known American official to inspect North Korea’s nuclear facilities, said prior to Trump’s statement that treating Kim Jong-un as though he is on the verge of attacking the U.S. is both inaccurate and dangerous.
“Some like to depict Kim as being crazy—a madman—and that makes the public believe that the guy is undeterrable,” said Hecker. “He’s not crazy and he’s not suicidal. And he’s not even unpredictable. The real threat is we’re going to stumble into a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula.”
Journalists and advocates for responsible national security policy quickly took to social media to condemn Trump’s threat and demand caution and diplomacy. Initiating the #PleaseDontKillUs hashtag and calling for dialogue, the peace advocacy group Win Without War declared, “We can’t let reckless behavior lead to war.”
Former White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer also wondered if Trump was speaking spontaneously about the threat of nuclear war, rather than relaying a new policy that had been reached after deliberations with his military advisors—an action that wouldn’t be unprecedented by the president.