On September 19th, U.S President Donald Trump delivered his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly. What stood out, however, was his harsh rhetoric towards North Korea and its leader, leading to analysts warning his comments will only escalate the nuclear tensions between the two countries.
Trump stated that “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Referring to the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump stated, “No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles.” He also mocked Kim Jong Un saying “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” The sharp escalation in rhetoric came weeks after Trump warned that North Korea would be met with “fire and fury like the world had never seen” if it continues to expand its nuclear programme.
Perhaps Trump believes using this kind of belligerent rhetoric to threaten North Korea is the best way to force Kim to back down. But is it? Many experts are arguing Trump’s comments will only serve to increase tension and increase the likeliness of war.
Several North Korea experts have said that Trump’s threat to “totally destroy” North Korea was counterproductive and might encourage Kim to expand his nuclear and missile programmes. Journalist and author Donald Kirk believe Trump’s remarks makes the prospect of negotiations between the two countries highly unlikely. “North Koreans are not going to back down – if anything they are going to increase the tempo of their programme.”
U.S Ambassador to the U.N Nikki Haley said the United States has many options to solve the conflict with North Korea that stop short of destroying the country. She asserted “No one wants war, the President doesn’t want war. We have tried to do this through dialogue, we have tried to do this through sanctions, we have tried every diplomatic measure that we possibly can. We’re not giving up on diplomatic efforts.”
As emphasized by the U.S Ambassador, diplomatic efforts between America and North Korea must continue in order for disagreements to not escalate into an unnecessary conflict that may have dire consequences for a significant number of people. Trump’s comments highlighted the need for world leaders to promote peace and cooperation rather than hostility and conflict. Other world leaders must condemn what Trump has proposed in order for a peaceful solution to be reached between the United States and North Korea. Both countries will benefit from greater cooperation with one another.