WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s threats against North Korea have highlighted as never before the tension between the president’s duties as chief executive and the role he often seems to prefer as the country’s highest-profile TV and internet commentator.
Despite Trump’s blustery warning of “fire and fury,” which he amplified further in comments to reporters Thursday, warships are not known to be moving toward the Korean peninsula, a tactic deliberately publicized during previous tense times to signal U.S. resolve. The U.S. has not reinforced troop levels in South Korea, as President Bill Clinton was about to do in 1994 when the two countries did come to the brink of war. U.S. dependents have not been ordered out, nor have U.S. nuclear weapons been sent back in to South Korea.
Instead, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Americans should “sleep well at night” and has pressed for talks, albeit with preconditions the North Koreans so far have not been willing to meet.
On Thursday, even as Trump said his previous statements were perhaps “not tough enough,” Defense Secretary James N. Mattis emphasized diplomacy.
“Do I have military options? Of course I do. That’s my responsibility,” Mattis told reporters as he flew to Seattle for meetings with tech industry officials.
“But what we’re trying to do here is leave it loud and clear in the diplomatic arena: It is North Korea’s choice. Do you want a much better future — the entire world community is saying one thing — or do you want a much worse future?”
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