'Scary as Hell': Trump Response to North Korea Sparks Fear of Escalation
"We are literally at the point were we have to hope that a guy who is obviously crazy, Kim Jong-un, is less crazy than the U.S. President."
Following North Korea's announcement on Tuesday that it had for the first time successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)—one it claimed could "target any part of the world"—President Donald Trump continued his bizarre use of social media as a weapon by launching a series of tweets described by commentators as "insane," "unintelligible," and "scary as hell."
"[Trump] could literally get us into a war with his tweets."
—Laura Rosenberger, former State Department official
"Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?" Trump wrote, referring to North Korean leader before casually floating the idea that "perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!"
Experts were unsure whether the launch actually demonstrated the missile's capacity to reach "any part of the world."
"It appears the test was successful. If launched on a standard angle, the missile could have a range of more than 8,000 km," Kim Dong-yub, a military expert at Kyungnam University's Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul," told Reuters. "But we have to see more details of the new missile to determine if North Korea has acquired ICBM technology."
As CNN noted, Kim Jong-un appears to have timed the missile launch "for maximum political effect, giving the order to fire on the eve of the July 4 holiday, just days after US President Donald Trump spoke with Japanese and Chinese leaders about the North Korea threat and before this week's G20 meeting."
That Trump so quickly fell for the bait alarmed analysts and lawmakers, who argued that the president's erratic behavior could further escalate an already deeply troubling situation.
"North Korea clings to nukes [because] it is paranoid it will be invaded," wrote Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.). "Using words like 'end' is exactly the wrong approach."
The South Korean military officer who monitors these tweets is freaking out right now. https://t.co/G0iV10o3Vl— Jeet Heer (@HeerJeet) July 4, 2017
In Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo, hundreds of powerful people are debating the translation of "put a heavy move." https://t.co/JJUtlsm8br— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) July 4, 2017
Unclear the meaning of "put a move on" NK. Trump used the same verb for sexually assaulting women, i.e. "I moved on her like a bitch" https://t.co/qPwhOWDweG— Elise Hu (@elisewho) July 4, 2017
I'm sure North Korea, with a stable, non-violent leader, will respond diplomatically to this tweet. https://t.co/8ULYzCecls— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) July 4, 2017
North Korea's neighbors, meanwhile, called for calm and restraint.
"I have to reiterate that the current situation in the Korean Peninsula is complicated and sensitive," said Geng Shuang, a spokesman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "We hope all sides concerned can remain calm and restrained so that tensions can be eased as soon as possible."
Given Trump's track record over just six months in office—including his recent "deranged" attacks on the American media—some argued that such restraint will likely not come from the White House.
We are literally at the point were we have to hope that a guy who is obviously crazy, Kim Jong Un, is less crazy than the US President. https://t.co/C22TwLbFbw— Stonekettle (@Stonekettle) July 4, 2017
Former State Department official Laura Rosenberger, who worked specifically on issues related to North Korea, warned that Trump is "playing with fire here—nuclear fire."
"Picking a Twitter fight with a nuclear-armed dictator is not wise—this is not reality TV anymore," Rosenberger concluded. "He could literally get us into a war with his tweets."