On September 19, President Donald Trump gave his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly. His harsh rhetoric toward North Korea stood out — mostly because he threatened to obliterate the country of 25.4 million people.
"No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles," Trump said, referring to the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. "The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea."
"Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime," he continued, using his new favorite nickname for Kim.
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Trump clearly believes that using this kind of belligerent rhetoric to threaten North Korea is the best way to get Kim to back down. But is it? Or does this kind of saber rattling only serve to increase the tension and make war more likely?
To find out, I reached out to eight North Korea experts and asked them for their reactions to the president's remarks.
Several said that Trump's threat to "totally destroy" North Korea was counterproductive and might encourage Kim to continue his nuclear and missile programs. Melissa Hanham, senior research associate in the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterrey, merely responded with a photo of Edvard Munch's famous painting The Scream.
A few noted that it was similar to what other presidents, including President Obama, have said before. Several also expressed concern over the ambiguity of the threat — that it wasn't clear if what, exactly, Trump was willing to do.
Only one expert I talked to felt Trump's comment was a net positive. Matthew Kroenig told me that the president's comments "reinforced the deterrence message."
The experts' full responses, lightly edited for clarity and style, are below.