A Nuclear Missile and A Muted Trump


The ICBM launched on 28 July by North Korea presents the most dangerous threat yet to the United States – and the president’s response was the most restrained, least belligerent ever. Check his Twitter feed. You won’t see the bellicose challenge. No demeaning taunts to DPRK’s Kim Jong-un. None of the strutting braggadocio.

At last, cooler heads have prevailed.

As Trump’s Twitter feed went silent, the Pentagon jumped to the forefront, releasing an immediate statement. Capt. Jeff Davis downplayed the danger of the ICBM, saying “the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.” Technically accurate, the threat was reduced because the controlled launch had a flat trajectory, which limited its range.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Dunford, called the South Korean military command and talked “military response options.” Dunford, who coincidentally was lunching with Japan’s Chief of Staff at the Pentagon when news broke of the missile test, assured South Korea of the “ironclad commitment” of the US to its ally. Their conversation was followed by a joint US-South Korea live fire operation Saturday morning.

For its part, a jangled South Korea called the launch “an act of grave provocation threatening the security of the Korean Peninsula and world peace.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a thoughtful statement that condemned North Korea, pressured China and Russia to intervene and said the U.S. “will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea nor abandon our commitment to our allies in the region.”

The Hwasong-14 type missile splashed down in the Sea of Japan, prompting this vigorous protest from the Japanese government: “We cannot accept these repeated provocations by North Korea and we made our protest to the North Koreans using the strongest words possible.”

When Trump did respond, it was through a carefully crafted release that echoed the remarks of the Secretary of State. It seems very likely that Trump was warned against a spontaneous reply or aggressive rhetoric. His earlier tweets have escalated tensions and enraged the North Korean leader, as evidenced in Kim’s post-launch statement which targeted Trump. The missile, said Kim, sent a “stern warning” to the US president who “loses its mind and makes uncalled-for remarks.”

Trump’s restraint lasted a day. In his typical threatening manner, he reacted to the missile crisis by slamming China.

So much for Chocolate Cake Diplomacy.


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