On Sunday, President Trump logged online to enjoy a day of harassing Puerto Ricans, boycotting the NFL, and bypassing his “wonderful” Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, to launch vague threats at North Korea. His tweets, characteristic but seemingly unprompted, laid out a new foreign policy: “do what needs to be done,” instead of useless negotiations with a foreign leader capable of launching a nuclear weapon.
“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump wrote of Kim Jong Un, whom he has so delightfully nicknamed. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
We’ve been down this road before: Trump aggressively threatens North Korea, Twitter erupts, the State Department responds with an indirect rebuke of his threats, and the whole cycle continues until the president is bored online again.
Whether or not Trump actually told Tillerson he was wasting his time “trying to negotiate” with Kim Jong Un is debatable, but the tweets were published a few days after the Tillerson’s State Department confirmed that lines of communication with Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, had been established, per The New York Times:
“We ask, ‘Would you like to talk?’ We have lines of communications to Pyongyang — we’re not in a dark situation, a blackout,” he added. “We have a couple, three channels open to Pyongyang,” a reference to North Korea’s capital.
While Tillerson suggested the negotiations weren’t exactly fruitful thus far, he emphasized that diplomacy remained the State Department’s first and only goal. Trump’s tweets, on top of being a belligerent threat, publicly undercut Tillerson — but it wouldn’t be the first time he’s undermined a cabinet member online.
As of publication, North Korea hadn’t responded to Trump’s tweets. But given Kim Jong Un’s, uh, creative (and accurate) response to the president’s truculent UN speech, I expect an equally as inventive response imminently.