The US and North Korea came dangerously close to war during Trump’s presidency. This is often discounted or forgotten in assessments of Trump’s foreign policy record because the war didn’t happen and Trump then made a big show of meeting with Kim Jong-un, but the crisis was real and war was much closer than most people realize. As Van Jackson has written in new report gives another example of how Trump spoke privately about the possibility of attacking North Korea, including the option of a nuclear first strike:
Behind closed doors in 2017, President Donald Trump discussed the idea of using a nuclear weapon against North Korea and suggested he could blame a US strike against the communist regime on another country, according to a new section of a book that details key events of his administration.
The claim rings true. It not only lines up with the deranged threats that Trump was making publicly during this same period, but it fits with how Trump talks and thinks about the use of force against other countries. Just last year, Trump “joked” that the US should “bomb the shit” out of Russia and then blame China for it. It is a classic Trump proposal: extremely aggressive, heedless of consequences, and eager to shift responsibility to someone else for his actions. It may be possible to distract Trump from following through on his crackpot notions, but it is important to remember that his first instinct is to attack.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.