'Keep Kim on his toes': US officials scramble to defend Trump's 'nuclear button' tweet
Throughout the week, major drama has been unfolding around threats of mutually assured destruction between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump. In his New Year address, Kim declared North Korea to be a nuclear power whose symbolic "red button" is ready and capable of striking the continental US.
Trump, in his usual self, took Kim's statements to heart, tweeting Tuesday that his button is "much bigger & more powerful" than North Korea's, and one that actually works.
Officials from Trump's administration scrambled to defend the president from journalists questioning his "mental fitness" and US strategy on North Korea. On Sunday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and CIA Director Mike Pompeo backed Trump in separate interviews.
“We’re not going to let them go and dramatize the fact that they have a button right on their desk and they can destroy America,” Haley told ABC 'This Week' program. “We want to always remind them we can destroy you too, so be very cautious and careful with your words and what you do.”
“I think that [Trump] always has to keep Kim on his toes. It’s very important that we don’t ever let him get so arrogant that he doesn’t realize the reality of what would happen if he started a nuclear war,” she added.
The president's message is consistent with US policy of the denuclearization of North Korea, ClA Director Mike Pompeo told CBS 'Face the Nation', adding, that North Korea is just a few months away from attaining the capability to strike the US.
"We want the regime to understand that, unlike before, we are intent on resolving this" diplomatically, Pompeo said in a separate interview Sunday on Fox news. "This administration is prepared to do what it takes to assure that people in Los Angeles, in Denver, in New York are not held at risk from Kim Jong-un having a nuclear weapon," Pompeo said. “That tweet is entirely consistent with that policy.”
Trump has praised himself on his toughness in dealing with the North Korean nuclear question, but noted he is "absolutely" willing to speak with Kim if the upcoming North-South Korean talks on Tuesday produce positive results. He earlier agreed to postpone the annual Foal Eagle military drills with South Korea until after the Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang."Without my rhetoric and without my tough stance... They wouldn't be talking about Olympics, they would not be talking right now," Trump said Saturday at Camp David.