President Donald Trump continues to play a game of chicken with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un and the ramped-up rhetoric between Washington and Pyongyang has many wondering not if, but when the feud will erupt into war.
The latest war of words between the two leaders began when Kim, in a New Year’s speech, signaled his willingness to engage in talks with South Korea and claimed the entire U.S. mainland was within range of North Korean missiles, according to a CNN report.
“The nuclear button is always on the desk of my office,” he said. “They should accurately be aware that this is not a threat but a reality.”
Trump responded via Twitter, saying, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
Meanwhile, recent protests in Iran have drawn the attention of much of the world – and the strong support of the Trump administration.
The Iranian government reportedly has responded to the protests with force in some areas, and Iranian leaders have accused the U.S. of backing the anti-government protesters.
Now Trump is shaming Pakistan on Twitter and withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in security assistance at a time when the U.S. needs its difficult ally more than it has in years.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Trump is plunging deeper into Afghanistan, having raised the number of U.S. troops from 11,000 to 15,000 and increasing airstrikes and combat operations to root out Islamic State supporters and stop the advance of Taliban militants.
Supplying the growing war effort requires cooperation from Pakistan, which controls the roads into landlocked Afghanistan and has blocked U.S.-led NATO coalition vehicles during previous spats.
The alternative route goes through Central Asia, is several times costlier and requires dealing with a nettlesome Russia, the regional power broker.
“If Trump wants to increase troop levels, I’m not sure he can engage in this back-and-forth with Pakistan,” Shamila N. Chaudhary, who served as Pakistan director on the National Security Council during the Obama administration, told the Times. “They’re going to need those routes.”
U.S. officials also acknowledge that the troop surge won’t be successful unless it forces the Taliban to begin talks with the Afghan government to reach a durable resolution to the war.
Many experts believe that only Pakistan’s powerful security establishment – which has sheltered Taliban leaders for more than a decade – can persuade the militant group to negotiate.
Pakistan’s military has long maintained links to extremist groups, including the Taliban and the Haqqani network, that serve its strategic interests.
Reportedly, both groups have attacked U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, but the United States has often looked past that as it supplied Pakistan with $33 billion over the last 15 years.
After a series of tweets over the last week in which Trump railed against what he called Pakistan’s “lies and deceit” and said the U.S. funding had been “for nothing,” the State Department announced that the United States would freeze military aid until Pakistan “takes decisive action” against militant groups, including the Taliban and the Haqqani group.
In announcing the suspension, Trump administration officials were unusually bereft of details. They could not give the amounts of aid affected by the freeze nor say what military materiel would be cut.
Of all the crazy things going on in the world, all-out war between the U.S. and China seems a remote threat. Yet, Fox News (Trump’s biggest media ally) reported that is exactly what a Chinese diplomat says will happen, if the president sends a U.S. Navy ship to visit Taiwan.
The communist regime in Beijing regards Taiwan as a mutinous province that will – one way or another – always be part of China.
It has repeatedly warned that any Taiwanese attempt to declare sovereignty would be met with military action by its 2.3 million-man army to “reunify” the island and mainland, according to Fox.
While the U.S. has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it is bound by treaty to come to its aid if the island is under attack.
So, the words last month of a senior diplomat, Li Kexin, referring to Taiwan’s main seaport, need to be measured carefully.
“The day that a U.S. Navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung is the day that our People’s Liberation Army unifies Taiwan with military force,” Li was quoted as saying at a Chinese embassy event in Washington.
Was Li speaking for China’s all-powerful president, Xi Jinping? Or was he getting, as the metaphor goes, “over his skies”?
In other words, China wants to know if, for Trump, a free Taiwan is part of making America great again.
Finally, another report has surfaced that the Arab League could face inner division as it works to undo Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Jordan recently hosted Palestinian officials as well as those from Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to go over how the group would respond to the U.S. move.
“He’s aiming for war,” one Democrat said. “There’s a lot of eggs in that basket and he’s ready to press the button, as it were, if only to detract from his domestic troubles.”