Donald Trump’s fierce new threat against North Korea is unsettling official Washington as much as anything he has done so far as president.
Trump created a firestorm of criticism Tuesday when he warned: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” These remarks came the same day the Washington Post reported that U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded North Korea is making miniaturized nuclear warheads that can be placed inside missiles. Pyongyang also has been conducting missile tests in recent weeks. After Trump’s remarks, the North Korean regime said it is considering an attack on Guam.
Historian Timothy Naftali of New York University told CNN, “Donald Trump may put himself in a box because he is promising action that he might actually be unwilling to deliver on. So he should be careful what he threatens because he may, for the sake of U.S. credibility, have to act on his threats. That’s why presidents are so careful not to bluff. The other side can call your bluff.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D.N.Y., the Senate Democratic leader, called Trump’s comments “reckless.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a news release, “President Trump is not helping the situation with his bombastic comments.” She called for “high-level dialogue without any preconditions” between the United States and North Korea. Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said, “Make no mistake: North Korea is a real threat, but the president’s unhinged reaction suggests he might consider using American nuclear weapons in response to a nasty comment from a North Korean despot.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Phoenix radio station KTAR, “I take exception to the president’s comments because you’ve got to be sure that you can do what you say you’re going to do. The great leaders I’ve seen don’t threaten unless they’re ready to act and I’m not sure President Trump is ready to act.”
Sen. Ben Cardin, R-Md., the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “President Trump’s comments were not helpful and once again show that he lacks the temperament and judgment to deal with the serious crisis the United States confronts. We should not be engaging in the same kind of bluster and provocative statements as North Korea about nuclear war.”
Trump issued his threat during a photo session with news photographers and reporters at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he is on what his aides call a “working vacation.”