Trump’s irresponsible North Korea rhetoric continued this morning:
Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 22, 2017
The latest outburst from the president came on the heels of the North Korean response to his U.N. speech. Kim reportedly mocked Trump as a “mentally deranged dotard,” and North Korea’s foreign minister suggested that they would respond by testing a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific:
North Korea’s foreign minister said the country could detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean in response to President Donald Trump’s speech before the United Nations that warned the U.S. would annihilate North Korea if forced to defend itself or its allies.
It remains to be seen what North Korea will do in response to Trump’s statements, but it is reasonable to assume that it will come in the form of another provocative action. Testing a hydrogen bomb in the ocean is probably something that North Korea can do if Kim decides to do it:
Still, such a provocation was within the realm of possibility, Mr. LaFoy said.
“It’s been on my list of ‘possible cases’ for a couple of weeks now,” he said.
It was also theoretically possible for North Korea to carry out the threat by loading a hydrogen bomb onto a ship and detonating it in the Pacific, Mr. LaFoy said.
If making public threats against North Korea was intended to intimidate Kim, it has failed and could backfire dangerously. If Trump thinks he can out-insult or out-provoke the North Korean government, he is mistaken, and it is foolish to try. One of Trump’s flaws is that he can never let anything go, and another is that he feels compelled to retaliate against every perceived slight, so now that he is in a cycle of insults and name-calling with North Korea’s dictator he will have difficulty getting out of it.
Trump’s careless reference to Kim as a “madman” obviously isn’t going to help calm tensions, but if Trump really thinks Kim is irrational and therefore can’t be deterred then that is much more worrisome than the effects of another insult.