Risk of miscalculation in Trump’s tough Korea talk

WASHINGTON (AP) — Warning of “fire and fury,” President Donald Trump has answered North Korea’s threats with rhetoric the nuclear-armed nation might appreciate. The risk is the tough talk leading to war.

Trump’s foray into North Korea-style bombast injects new uncertainty into the increasingly fragile, 6-decade-old truce between the United States and the communist country. His talk of military action “like the world has never seen” jars with the message of top American officials to cooperate with China on pressuring North Korea and ultimately seek diplomatic negotiations.

The type of threats Trump issued are routine from the isolated, Stalinist state, which often speaks of turning neighbor South Korea’s capital into a “sea of fire” and warns of “merciless” and unprecedented attacks on its enemies, including nuclear strikes on the United States. The bombast is so frequent that it is difficult to judge the seriousness, particularly as the North has not used its massive conventional arms stockpiles against its neighbors or U.S. military bases in South Korea and Japan.

Trump, too, has earned a reputation for exaggeration and sometimes unsubstantiated policy directives, often delivered via Twitter. Markets showed no reaction to Trump’s threat, and there was no indication the Pentagon was adjusting its military posture.

On Tuesday, Trump told reporters: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.”

Then, on Wednesday, he issued a series of tweets extolling the U.S. nuclear arsenal. “Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!” he said.

Trump’s critics were quick to pounce, suggesting he risked playing into North Korean efforts to divide the U.S. from its military-averse allies in Asia and reinforcing claims that Washington isn’t interested in nuclear disarmament, and really wants to oust the Kim family dynasty.

“You got to be sure you can do what you say you’re going to do,” Republican Sen. John McCain, a frequent Trump critic, said of the president’s comments. “That kind of rhetoric, I’m not sure it helps. The great leaders I’ve seen don’t threaten unless they’re ready to act and I’m not sure that President Trump is ready to act.”

North Korea experts have long advised against overtly hostile threats to the North, particularly given how little is known about the country’s unpredictable young leader, Kim Jong Un, and his stewardship of the world’s largest…

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