In an interview with The New York Times, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster admitted that the U.S. intelligence community failed to hit the mark when it came to predicting how quickly Kim Jong Un would be capable of sending a nuclear missile halfway around the world. As such, the Trump administration has been forced to address the crisis immediately, knowing that the madman of North Korea may already be capable of landing a bomb of unthinkable power and destruction on U.S. soil.
McMaster said that Kim’s momentum towards establishing North Korea as a nuclear state “has been quicker, and the timeline is a lot more compressed than most people believed.” While the intelligence agencies knew what the regime was up to, they thought the international community had more time to prepare for the inevitable. “They saw it coming,” he said, “but got the timing wrong.”
For this reason, he told the Times, the U.S. was forced to work quickly to prevent the crisis with North Korea from spiraling into nuclear disaster. “We have to do everything we are doing with a greater degree of urgency, and we have to accelerate our own efforts to resolve the issue short of conflict,” McMaster said.
The prospect of a nuclear exchange with North Korea hit the headlines once again last week when Kim Jong Un warned President Trump to remember that he had a nuclear button within arms’ reach at all times. This prompted Trump to respond in kind.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” Trump replied on Twitter.
While the media predictably bashed Trump for engaging Kim in this kind of “childish exchange,” there is, as always, a method to the madness. Trump is not taking part in empty bluster; he is reminding Kim (and, by extension, his allies) that the U.S. is more than capable of blowing North Korea off the map. And by putting it out there in these stark terms, he is planting a seed of doubt in the mind of Kim Jong Un. And President Xi of China. And President Putin of Russia. He’s saying, “Don’t test me. I’m not like the guys before me. If push comes to shove, I will deploy. Count on it.” Does he mean it? Would he really authorize a nuclear strike?
They don’t know. That’s the point. They don’t know. And that, in the end, may be Trump’s key to ensuring that Kim’s threats never escalate into something more.