The Memo: Fears escalate over North Korea

The escalating crisis over North Korea is worrying experts who say that a previously unthinkable nuclear conflict is fast becoming a real possibility.

“Right now, I would say we are heading to war,” said Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, an organization that supports nuclear weapon reduction and eventual elimination.

Anxiety is especially acute among liberals who fear that President Trump’s confrontational rhetoric could upset the balance that has maintained a tense peace on the Korean peninsula for decades.

They were unnerved by Trump’s speech to the United Nations this week, in which he derided North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man” and said Kim was “on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

Trump added that the United States would “totally destroy” North Korea in the event of an attack from Pyongyang on the U.S. or its allies.

Kim hit back with a rare personal statement, in which he called Trump a “mentally deranged dotard” and threatened “results beyond his expectation” by way of retribution.

North Korea’s foreign minister suggested soon afterward that the regime was contemplating detonating a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean.

Such a move would dramatically ratchet up the confrontation. No nation has detonated a nuclear device in the earth’s atmosphere since China did so in 1980.

Experts critical of Trump fear disaster could lie ahead.

“By any measure President Trump’s quote-unquote ‘strategy’ is not working,” said Michael Fuchs, who was a deputy assistant secretary of State during the Obama administration.

“This is squarely in the hands of the president himself,” Fuchs, who is now a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, added. “The rest of his administration, so far at least, seems willing to carry out a strategy focused on deterrence, reassurance, pressure and diplomacy. But the president from time to time lobs a grenade on top of these efforts, and spins the escalation up again.”

Supporters of the president, and those who take a more hawkish line on North Korea generally, argue that tough…

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