„I don’t want to be an alarmist, but we’re all going to die!” This is the lovely and heartwarming line Stephen Colbert started his monolog with on Tuesday night, following Trump’s response to North Korea. The president threatened to unleash “fire and fury” against the aforementioned country if they continue to threaten the United States.
Mr. Trump’s threat, which, according to Times reporters, was completely improvised, seems to have sent a shudder through Asia among adversaries, making the possibility of a military conflict appearing to be more real than ever. Many people chose to downplay the seriousness of Trump’s threat as a simple warning for North Korea not to attack the United States, but its implications are much larger than this. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson played down an imminent attack from North Korea as well, saying: “I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.”
Still, the majority think the danger of a possible war is way clearer than it was a decade ago. Cheng Xiaohe, an associate professor of international affairs at the Renmin University of China in Beijing, said that “we’re going to see a confrontation between the United States and North Korea that will be ferocious and strong and bloody.”
He seemed startled by the fact that the American president made this remark merely days after the United Nations Security Council imposed tough economic penalties on North Korea for its nuclear and missile programs, aiming at pressuring the country into negotiating, in order to renounce its nuclear weapons. Needless to say, North Korea railed against the new sanctions with no intention of slowing its program, its main argument being that the nuclear weapons are crucial to its self-defense.
Mr. Trump’s warning against North Korea clearly reflects a growing frustration over the country’s advances. I do not believe Mr. Trump thoroughly thought about the implications and price of such strong language, which raises questions about the administration’s strategy. “Trump doesn’t seem to understand what an alliance is, and doesn’t seem to consider his ally when he says those things,” says Lee Byong-chul, a senior fellow at the Institute for Peace and Cooperation in Seoul.
So what can be done? Susan Rice, a former Obama advisor wrote: “While we quietly continue to refine our military options, we can rely on traditional deterrence by making crystal clear that any use of nuclear weapons against the United States or its allies would result in the annihilation of North Korea.” So, there is no good solution. And as Hillary Clinton pointed out: “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”