The Trump administration has spent much of the summer trying to work out what to do about North Korea, but now the unthinkable has actually happened and North Korea has apparently developed a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit on a missile, President Trump has resorted to the only language he understands: bombast and bluster. Trump said that if the threats don’t stop, they will be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
“The likes of which the world has never seen” is a familiar trope for Trump, in fact, he used the same construction during the same press conference to warn of the threat of rising corn prices (“raising food prices to levels the likes of which we’ve never seen”). But what struck me most is just how much this sounds like, well, the North Koreans themselves. In fact, just two days previously, the North’s ruling party newspaper Rodong said “The day the US dares tease our nation with a nuclear rod and sanctions, the mainland US will be catapulted into an unimaginable sea of fire.” In fact, threatening to turn South Korea into a “sea of fire” is an almost annual event in Pyongyang.
North Korea poses a very real threat, and we are now moving into a position where North Korea is able to make good on some of its fabulist claims. But the North Korean regime engages in sabre-rattling all the time (normally around this time of year, when the South and the US do military exercises), so it wouldn’t be wise to respond every time North Korea uses threatening language. And, given the North Korean regime is incredibly paranoid, it’s definitely not a good idea to use language that mimics North Korean bombast.