After The Washington Post reported that North Korea is believed to have successfully miniaturized a nuclear weapon to fit inside its functioning missiles, President Trump addressed the news while speaking to reporters Tuesday afternoon. There was absolutely nothing reassuring about his comments.
“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” said Trump. “They will be met with fire, fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with the fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before. Thank you.”
Seriously, those are the words that came out of his mouth. Here, watch him say them for yourself:
Trump, who is currently on vacation in New Jersey, started his morning by retweeting a story from Fox News about US intelligence detecting North Korean anti-ship cruise missiles being moved to patrol boats. Subsequently, he caught a lot of flak for endorsing a story that used both anonymous sourcing and leaked classified info—practices he regularly condemns. But the North Korea news for today was just getting started.
Around noon, the Post reported that North Korea had passed a major hurdle in its effort to build a system to launch a nuclear weapon on an intercontinental ballistic missile. According to analysis by the Defense Intelligence Agency obtained by the Post, “The IC [intelligence community] assesses North Korea has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, to include delivery by ICBM-class missiles.” The miniaturization process was always considered the toughest challenge that North Korea would face and many analysts believed it would take them several more years.
According to the report, the Japanese Ministry of Defense also put together an assessment this week that found evidence that North Korea had successfully miniaturized a nuke. The US estimates that North Korea now has up to 60 nuclear weapons under its control.
This weekend, national security adviser H.R. McMaster appeared on MSNBC’s Hugh Hewitt Show. At the time, he said that the president wouldn’t tolerate a nuclear-tipped ICBM and “We have to provide all options . . . and that includes a military option.” That’s a fairly reasonable, measured and non-commital statement for the US military to make. For comparison, let’s look again at what the president said this afternoon at his golf club:
North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire, fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with the fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before. Thank you.
This isn’t even close to a coherent statement. In fact, it sounds exactly like the type of statements that are regularly released by the North Korean government. There’s nothing about Trump’s words that project authority or comfort. It’s all dick-waving and threats of fantastical horror being visited upon another country.
But this isn’t a fantasy. It’s a real case of brinksmanship pushing several countries toward war on the Korean Peninsula. And the man in charge of the world’s greatest military power has consistently shown himself to be unqualified to handle his job.
One has, thus far, been able to take a small amount of comfort in the knowledge that Trump doesn’t really get involved with the details of running the US government. When insiders said he didn’t know what was in the healthcare bill that his administration has failed to pass, that almost seemed preferable. But unlike legislation, Trump is the first and last person who gets to decide if we use our nukes. And after seven months of our president accomplishing nothing, ask yourself this: Is Trump the kind of guy who would pull the trigger just to say he did it?