The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) - often times the liaison between Kim Jong Un and the international public - was kept busier than usual last week after hammering out criticisms of the UN economic sanctions - a response to Kim's sudden increase in missile tests. Reports included threats to America with "nuclear weapons of justice."
Historically, most American presidents have ignored such broadcasts. Not Donald Trump. Speaking at one of his golf clubs, he responded to the North Korean threats with an aggressive warning, promising to meet them "with fire and fury like the world has never seen." Even KCNA seemed to think Trump's language was pretty strong, accusing America of being "reckless" and promoting "war hysteria."
The UN-led sanctions that sparked this back and forth exchange were restrictions that banned North Korean coal, lead, iron, and seafood. Estimates conclude that this would deprive North Korea of $1 billion a year. However, sanctions have never been successful in bringing the Kim family to heel. The North Korean regime has continued to avoid such restrictions by tapping into illegal slush funds in China to finance business dealings. Enforcement has rarely worked.
According to the Brookings Institution, sanctions will only work if they are a "cohesive, clearer strategy." But many accuse Trump and his administration for sending vague, confusing messages. Only a week before Trump's hostile response at his golf club, his secretary of state Rex Tillerson had publicly stated that America "[was] not your (North Korea) enemy," and more importantly, "not a threat." Trump's usual actions seems to be at odds with the next step America is expected to take: developing a carefully coordinated strategy.
So far, Trump's antagonistic remarks have only made allies nervous and have definitely aggravated Kim even further. By stating that America is prepared to retaliate against North Korean threats, Trump is sending a very clear message that America is open to hostility.
The most logical course of action the President can take now is to follow up the sanctions with an offer of talks. During his campaign, Trump had once said that he was willing to "chat with North Korea over a hamburger." Now seems to be the best time to have that hamburger.
And in the words of Evans Revere, a former U.S. diplomat who took park in recent negotiations with North Korea, "If we're going to respond with nuclear weapons every time the North Koreans say something outrageous, there are going to be a lot of nuclear weapons flying through the air."