Trump’s threat of ‘fire and fury’ against N Korea raises alarm in Asia: NYT

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NEW YORK, Aug 9 (APP): US President Donald Trump’s threat to unleash
“fire and fury” against North Korea sent a shudder through Asia on Wednesday, raising alarm among allies and adversaries, a leading
American newspaper reported.
In a dispatch, The New York Times said some observers took Trump’s
remark as posturing, but others said the danger of war had not seemed
as clear and present in decades.
With North Korea responding that it would, if attacked, strike
American military forces in Guam, a United States territory in the
western Pacific Ocean, the Times, citing analysts, warned that the escalating statements increased the likelihood of war – perhaps one
based on miscalculation, should one side’ fiery rhetoric be misread by
the other.
Officials in South Korea and Japan, according to the newspaper,
said that while the situation was tense, it had not reached a crisis
point.
US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson played down any imminent
threat from North Korea, saying on Wednesday, “I think Americans
should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular
rhetoric of the last few days.”
Still, some in the region said the possibility of military conflict
over the North’s nuclear programme seem more real.
“We’re going to see a confrontation between the United States and
North Korea that will be ferocious and strong and bloody,” Cheng Xiaohe,
an associate professor of international relations at Renmin University of China in Beijing, was quoted as saying. He called Trump’s language “explosive,” and said the threat and counterthreat had resulted in a new stage of confrontation.
Cheng said that he was also puzzled by the timing of Trump’s
remark, just days after the United Nations Security Council imposed
the toughest economic penalties yet on North Korea for its nuclear and missile programmes. That unanimous vote, which overcame China’s
historical reluctance to harshly punish its ally, has been widely described as the Trump administration’s greatest diplomatic accomplishment so far.
“Usually, the US government is willing to give more time for a
resolution, to see how the resolutions bite,” Cheng said.
Across the southeast region on Wednesday, analysts reacted with concern
and even foreboding about the tone of Trump’s comments, as well as about
the unimpeded progress that North Korea appears to be making toward becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, able to strike the United States or other far-off adversaries.
While Trump’s warning that North Korea, if it kept threatening the
United States, would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” clearly reflected growing American frustration over the North’s advances, analysts, cited by the Times, said it was not clear that
he had fully considered the implications of such strong language.
That, they said, raised questions about the administration’s
strategy, and about whether Trump recognized the price that some of America’s staunchest allies, especially Japan and South Korea, could pay
for carrying out his threat.
“Trump doesn’t seem to understand what an alliance is, and doesn’t
seem to consider his ally when he says those things,” Lee Byong-chul, a senior fellow at the Institute for Peace and Cooperation in Seoul,
the South Korean capital, was quoted as saying. “No American president
has mentioned a military option so easily, so offhandedly as he has.
He unnerves people in South Korea, few of whom want war in Korea.”
Trump’s warning followed a report that American intelligence
agencies believe that North Korea has made a nuclear weapon that can fit
on the tip of a ballistic missile. Such drastic advances have already
led Japan and South Korea to consider deploying new, more powerful
weapons to counter the threat, after decades of relying on American
military might for strategic security.
Itsunori Onodera, Japan’s new defence minister, said on Wednesday
that Japan found it credible that North Korea had succeeded in
miniaturizing a nuclear warhead, or that it would do so in the near
future.
“At the very least, whether they have them now or will have them
soon, it’s reached a level where we have to monitor vigilantly,”
he said.
Officials in Asia and beyond, according to the Times, have grown
used to provocative musings by President Trump, particularly on Twitter,
and they tend to ignore them or to treat them as inaccurate reflections
of American policy. But analysts, cited by the newspaper, saw his
“fire and fury” remark as dangerous and unlikely to deter North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
“We are used to painting North Korea as ‘unpredictable,’ but
increasingly it is the US that is introducing strategic
unpredictability into a volatile dynamic,” Euan Graham, an analyst at
the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, wrote in an email to the
Times.
He added that Trump’s warning would not have its desired effect
because “the North Koreans have an ear for bluster.”