Donald Trump is a threatening man. He tweeted what amounted to a challenge to war with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. U.S. officials have long said that Kim is an unstable man, but that is not what they fear the most.
The North Korean leader and Trump have been in a Twitter war, trading insults. Kim called Trump “old,” so the most powerful man in the world called him “short and fat” in November.
In a New Year’s speech, Kim sent a tweet that indicated he had a nuclear button on his desk, and he was willing to use it. He said that was not a threat, just a fact.
The New York Times pointed out that Trump was actually taunting the North Korean leader who said:
‘The U.S. should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my table (desk).’
The U.S. believes that hNorth Korea has the capability of reaching the east coast of this country, but not the ability to attach a nuclear weapon and send it down.
Trump had to have the last word, so he tweeted back in a juvenile message:
‘North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!’
One administration source told Axios that he was worried about Trump’s stability.
‘Every war in history was an accident. You just don’t know what’s going to send him (Trump) over the edge.’
People close to Trump say that the media is over-exaggerating, that Trump was just stirring up things a bit and playing to his base. Axios wrote:
‘Their view is basically: Sometimes, a tweet is just a tweet.Why it matters: The danger here is that Kim is also an unpredictable actor, and not one fully understood by U.S. intelligence.’
An outside West Wing adviser told Axios:
‘This is the most important issue on the president’s desk. We are in a hair-trigger environment. And this is potentially a shooting war with nuclear risk. What intel analysis or foreign policy advice leads to employing this as a tactic?’
Some of the West Wing people realize how close to a nuclear war the U.S. really is now. They believe that people outside of the White House do not realize how high the risk is. Retired General Barry McCaffery said on MSNBC Live With Hallie Jackson that this is a “very dangerous” situation.
According to the Associate Press (AP’s) Matthew Pennington:
‘[T]he president doesn’t actually have a physical button. The process for launching a nuclear strike is secret and complex and involves the use of a nuclear “football,” which is carried by a rotating group of military officers everywhere the president goes and is equipped with communication tools and a book with prepared war plans.’
‘If the president were to order a strike, he would identify himself to military officials at the Pentagon with codes unique to him. Those codes are recorded on a card known as the ‘biscuit’ that is carried by the president at all times. He would then transmit the launch order to the Pentagon and Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM).’
USSTRATCOM is positioned at the Offutt Air Force Base, which is close to Omaha, Nebraska.
The New York Times wrote:
‘[O]fficials … dismissed Mr. Kim’s comment that he now has a “nuclear button” on his desk as a rhetorical flourish. Currently, Mr. Kim cannot launch a weapon in seconds, as his declaration seemed intended to suggest. All of the tests he has conducted of intercontinental ballistic missiles have involved liquid-fuel weapons that take hours, sometimes days, to prepare for a launching.’
Featured Image via Getty Images/Tomohiro Ohsumi.