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Editorial: Trump needs to stop the 'fire and fury' talk

Dangerous words are being exchanged between the United States and North Korea. We’ve come to expect that from North Korea’s unpredictable Kim Jong Un, who proudly and foolishly proclaims his ability to attack the United States. But President Trump’s descent into that war of words is deeply troubling. He should stop the saber rattling and work to defuse the situation.

North Korea’s rapid march toward nuclear technology is alarming, to say the least. Having an ICBM tipped with a nuclear bomb that can threaten the mainland United States is intolerable.

In response to threats from Kim, Trump Tuesday made a threat of his own: “They will be met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.” Wednesday he followed that up by tweeting that the U.S. arsenal of nuclear weapons is “far stronger and more powerful than ever before.”

It harkens back to President Harry S. Truman’s “rain of ruin” address during World War II announcing the United States had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Kim Jong Un, grandson of the country’s founder, has shown himself to be ruthless as well as erratic. He has demonstrated little concern for the people of North Korea, and has ordered the execution of family members and top officials, his own defense chief for falling asleep during a meeting. His actions and words on his atomic weapons edge ever closer to the red line that demands response. But for now that response should not be military.

Diplomacy must be given more time. The United Nations Security Council just unanimously adopted tough sanctions against North Korea. Those must be given time to get Kim’s attention. North Korea has managed to dodge the worst effects of previous sanctions, thanks in part to China’s reluctance to offend its ally and trading partner.

This time China says it is on board with sanctions, as well it should be. China has much to lose if its neighbor provokes nuclear war with the United States. That is why China must stand strong on sanctions and attempt somehow to reason with Kim. If that’s not possible, China needs to find another way to remove the threat of war on its doorstep.

Kim Jong Un has, at least to many a layman, demonstrated a high degree of insanity. Knowing that he would likely be dead and parts of his country would be a smoking cinder if it goes to war with the United States, Kim has chosen to taunt and tease. Trump should not allow himself to fall to the level of this man-child’s provocations.

Trump’s apocalyptic words make diplomacy more difficult because any effort at a peaceful resolution will now look like he’s backing down, something he is not accustomed to.

Trump has assembled a team of generals around him: National security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Trump’s new chief of staff John Kelly. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged calm and said the U.S. is still open to negotiations with Pyongyang.

They must give sound counsel against the tough talk that could lead to war, and Trump must listen.

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