Trump’s ‘Threat, Counter-Threat’ Is A Dangerous Game To Play With North Korea

Ratcheting down the military threat from North Korea will take extensive communication with allies and some sort of concession to Kim Jong Un.

By Rhonda FanningAugust 10, 2017 12:06 pm

Tensions continue to rise between the U.S and North Korea after President Donald Trump threatened to unleash “fire and fury” against the Far East nation if it continues its nuclear weapons program. North Korea responded by saying that any U.S. military action would be met with retaliation — not on the U.S. mainland but on the territory of Guam. Guam Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo says he’s not changing the threat level on the island.

So where do we go from here?

Jeremi Suri professor and chair for leadership in global affairs at UT Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs says this is, indeed, a very serious situation, and Americans should take note.

On why Americans should take seriously the threats from North Korea:

“I think this is one of the scariest moments in my lifetime because the United States and North Korea have reached a point now, not only of tension and disagreement, but where the prestige and personal valor of the leaders of both societies are on the line.”

On the historical context for these kinds of threats:

“What we know as historians is when leaders promise to bring fire and fury or promise that they will make another country pay for insulting them, that often leads to very rash actions.”

On the problems caused by poor communication within the Trump administration:

“The president is saying one set of things, secretary of state is doing another, and that’s particularly dangerous because it means that our allies — and our adversaries — don’t know how to anticipate our behavior, they don’t know who they should listen to, they don’t know what to expect.”

On the varied, incongruent responses in Washington to the North Korean threat:

“There are a group of hawks that think they’re moving toward a more aggressive militarized posture. There’s another group that thinks we need to stick to deterrents and diplomacy and multilateral action, and then there’s another group that seems to think this is not even important.”

On the unprecedented nature of today’s threat:

“What we haven’t had until now is a kind of threat, counter-threat situation. …We’ve now entered into a kind of street yard argument where one insult, one personal insult from them, is being responded to with personal insults by us, which does, I think, escalate the situation.”

On a possible way out of the situation:

“In the past, what has happened is the North Korean leaders…have backed down but have been able to find something to claim they have gained from their threatening behavior. If we don’t give (Kim Jong Un) something, it’s going to be very hard to get him to back down.”

On what advice he would give President Trump:

“I would be on the phone with all of my key allies. …I would be talking to them about pursuing various avenues that would allow us to get out of this crisis, to maintain sanctions on North Korea, but to ratchet down the military threat.”

Written by Caroline Covington.