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Trump says his ‘Nuclear Button’ is bigger than North Korea’s

By Peter Baker, New York Times
Published: January 2, 2018 Updated: January 2, 2018 at 10:04 PM
Trump's remarks came as American allies in South Korea were moving to open talks with the North. [New York Times]

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump again raised the prospect of nuclear war with North Korea on Tuesday night, boasting that he commands a "much bigger" and "more powerful" arsenal of devastating weapons than the outlier government in Asia.

"North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,’?" Trump wrote on Twitter. "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!"

Trump’s combative response to a statement made in recent days by Kim raised the temperature in the brewing confrontation between the United States and North Korea even as American allies in South Korea were moving to open talks with Pyongyang. The contrast between Trump’s language and the peace overture by South Korea highlighted the growing rift between two longtime allies.

The president’s saber-rattling tweet shifted the tenor of his response to the South Korean initiative just hours after a milder initial statement. Trump, who has scorned the prospects of negotiating with North Korea, earlier in the day said the possible talks between the two governments on the peninsula resulted from sanctions imposed by the United States and the international community. "Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not — we will see!" he wrote Tuesday morning.

Why Trump hardened his message later the same day was not immediately clear. But Trump has not hesitated to match North Korea’s incendiary language even while other American presidents resisted such back-and-forth taunting out of concern that it was unwise and unnecessarily rewarding the hermit nation.

Last summer, Trump vowed to rain down "fire and fury" on North Korea if it posed a threat to the United States. Last fall, he went before the United Nations General Assembly to warn that he would "totally destroy North Korea" if the United States were forced to defend itself or its allies.