Donald Trump’s tweet taunting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un over the size of his “nuclear button” was meant to “keep Kim on his toes”, the US ambassador to the United Nations said on Sunday.
Rare progress has recently been made over the Korean standoff, with North and South agreeing to begin their first talks for two years on Tuesday in the South Korean side of the village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone.
The forthcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang will dominate the agenda but officials have indicated other issues may also be discussed.
Trump, however, showed a characteristic disregard for diplomatic niceties when he wrote on Tuesday: “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!”
The tweet was written the day before the Guardian published extracts of a book in which White House staffers question the president’s mental capacity for his job, setting off a political firestorm.
In an opinion piece for the Guardian on Sunday, Bandy Lee, an assistant clinical professor at the Yale School of Medicine who has briefed members of Congress on the risks associated with the president’s behaviour, wrote: “Trump views violence as a solution when he is stressed and desires to re-establish his power.
“Paranoia and overwhelming feelings of weakness and inadequacy make violence very attractive, and powerful weapons very tempting to use – all the more so for their power.
“His contest with the North Korean leader about the size of their nuclear buttons is an example of that and points to the possibility of great danger by virtue of the power of his position.”
Asked on ABC’s This Week if Trump’s tweet was a good idea at a time of high tension between the US and Pyongyang, Haley said: “I think [Trump] always has to keep Kim on his toes. It’s very important that we don’t ever let [Kim] get so arrogant that he doesn’t realise the reality of what would happen if he started a nuclear war.”
Host George Stephanopoulos countered that even senior Senate Republicans Corey Gardner and John Cornyn said Trump’s tweet was reckless.
“You know, everyone’s going to have their opinion,” Haley said. “What I can tell you is I’m dealing with the diplomats on the ground, I’m dealing with all the actors in this situation.
“It is a serious situation and [Kim] can’t sit there and imply that he’s going to destroy the United States without us reminding him of the facts and the reality that if you go there, it’s not us that’s going to be destroyed, it’s you.”
The CIA director, Mike Pompeo, also defended Trump, telling CBS’s Face the Nation the tweet was “consistent with US policy”, which seeks the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
Pompeo also said he believed North Korea was months away from being able to put a US city at risk of nuclear attack. He declined to be more precise.
Trump has regularly taunted Kim on social media and in speeches with the name “Rocket Man” or “Little Rocket Man”. He has also consistently implied that only military action will work.
In August, he said threats from Pyongyang would “be met with fire and the fury like the world has never seen”, a statement that gave Michael Wolff’s book its title.
In October, the president said talking to the North Koreans would be a “waste of time” for his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
On Saturday, though, Trump told a press conference at Camp David he would be open to phone talks with Kim.
“There is no turnaround,” Haley told ABC. ‘What [Trump] has basically said is ‘Yes, there could be a time when we talk to North Korea but a lot of things have to happen before that actually takes place. They have to be willing to talk about banning their nuclear weapons.’”
That would mean Pyongyang suspending its tests of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, an unlikely step.
At Camp David, Trump also appeared to take credit for the scheduled talks between North and South.
The president said: “A lot of people have said and a lot of people have written that without my rhetoric and without my tough stance – and it’s not just a stance, I mean this is what has to be done – that they wouldn’t be talking about Olympics, they wouldn’t be talking right now.”
Haley said it was not her “understanding” North and South Korea would “talk about anything further” than the Olympics.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
EXCLUSIVE: Full Audio Of White House official President Trump says ‘doesn’t exist’
On Thursday afternoon the White House held a “background briefing” where a “senior White House official” provided information on North Korea to reporters.
On Saturday, President Trump claimed the aide “doesn’t exist.”
The Failing @nytimes quotes “a senior White House official,” who doesn’t exist, as saying “even if the meeting were reinstated, holding it on June 12 would be impossible, given the lack of time and the amount of planning needed.” WRONG AGAIN! Use real people, not phony sources.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2018
A few hours later, a journalist posted partial audio of the call
4. I've obtained audio of the WH press briefing. You can hear Raj Shah, Deputy Press Secretary, introduce Pottinger (along with the terms – which are standard) and then Pottinger makes the statement that POTUS says was never made. Lots of reporters in briefing room and on phone. pic.twitter.com/2gEYkRSyTv
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) May 26, 2018
NewsThisSecond has obtained a recording of the background briefing in its entirety and is making it public.
Read President Trump’s Letter to Chairman Kim Jong Un canceling the summit between the two leaders
Text Version –
Kim Jong Un
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission
of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Dear Mr. Chairman:
We greatly appreciation your time, patience, and effort with respect to our recent negotiations and discussions relative to a summit long sought by both parties, which was scheduled to take place on June 12 in Singapore. We were informed that the meeting was requested by North Korea, but that to us is totally irrelevant. I was very much looking forward to being there with you. Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting. Therefore, please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place. You talk about nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.
I felt a wonderful dialogue was building up between you and me, and ultimately, it is only that dialogue that matters. Some day, I look very much forward to meeting you. In the meantime, I want to thank you for the release of the hostages who are now home with their families. That was a beautiful gesture and was very much appreciated.
If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, please do not hesitate to call me or write. The world, and North Korea in particular, has lost a great opportunity for lasting peace and great prosperity and wealth. This missed opportunity is a truly sad moment in history.
Donald J. Trump
President of the United States of America
MELANIA TRUMP UNDERGOES KIDNEY SURGERY AT WALTER REED MEDICAL CENTER
First lady Melania Trump underwent kidney surgery Monday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington, DC, according to a statement from her office.
Trump had been experiencing an issue with her kidney that her office described as benign but requiring medical attention.
Trump, who turned 48 last month, entered Walter Reed in nearby Bethesda, Maryland, on Monday morning and is expected to remain hospitalized for several days following the operation, according to the statement from her communications director, Stephanie Grisham.
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