The US president’s threats have made a dangerous standoff more unpredictable – and analysts say the attempt to intimidate Pyongyang could backfire
Donald Trump’s dire threats of conflagration aimed at Pyongyang are likely to add yet more unpredictability to an already dangerous nuclear standoff on the Korean peninsula.
The US president’s “fire and fury” rhetoric echoed the language of North Korean propaganda, and served as the reminder that on both sides of the lines in the confrontation, there are now volatile and brittle leaders, each insecure in their position and anxious to bolster their strongman image.
Guam, a 210 sq mile sovereign US territory in the western Pacific Ocean, is used by America as a strategic military base. Almost a third of its land is controlled by the US military and about 6,000 American troops are based there.
The island’s location, within range of North Korean medium- and long-range missiles, and military significance to the US make it a logical target for Pyongyang.
As recently as Monday, two US air force B-1B bombers flew from Guam to join their counterparts from South Korea and Japan for a mission over the Korean peninsula, about 2,100 miles away. Read more
Another downside of Trump’s threat, pointed out by former defence secretary, William Perry, is that if there is no policy or plan to follow such dire warnings, the president’s credibility will continue to dwindle.
“Nuclear deterrence is only effective if threats are deemed credible, bluster hurts our national security posture,” Perry said in a tweet.
Analysts warned that the dangers of miscalculation were increased by the uncertainty – among friend and foe alike – over what Trump administration policy is on North Korea amid a welter of contradictory statements from top officials.
“We spend a lot of time trying to make sure that when we faced a crisis we were on the same page, we knew what we wanted to achieve and we were able to communicate that to allies and adversaries,” Jon Wolfsthal, a former special assistant to President Obama on arms control and nonproliferation. “It’s unclear why that hasn’t happened in this administration.”
The US envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, won a significant diplomatic victory on Saturday, with a security council vote to impose a substantial new package of sanctions on North Korea, in response to its accelerating work on developing a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile.
The regime in Pyongyang…