Pressing the Wrong Buttons

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Last week, President Donald Trump issued a tweet accusing China for illegally smuggling oil to North Korea — which would be in violation of recent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions on the rogue nation [1]. This tweet comes after a published report from a South Korean newspaper that cites South Korean capturing of a smuggling vessel, and over 30 exchanges between China and North Korea since October [2]. In the tweet, Trump claims that China has been caught “red-handed” and is obstructing efforts for peace by not abiding by the set international rules in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

However, China has rejected Trump’s accusation and questions the credibility of the South Korean report. Instead, Chinese experts have criticized the President’s demeanor and argue that the U.S-proposed sanctions strategy “was proving ineffective against North Korea,” [2]. It is crucial that the leader of one of the biggest powers on the global stage acts with a level head and makes sure that his claims are true and non-aggravating to his allies. When the U.S accuses a very important ally against North Korea, such as China, it loses its credibility of being a sound and impartial leader.

The idea of protecting U.S national pride is at odds with the assured security of the rest of the world. America’s prestige of being a hegemonic nation is threatened by North Korea’s nuclear arsenal, which is only being built in order to protect itself from larger hostile nations. Additionally, the accusation of a U.S ally supplying the isolated country with resources fuels the U.S’ insecurity of loss of prestige.

However, playing hardball with North Korea by lashing out on allies and threatening North Korea only heightens the tension of the situation. The more President Trump accuses allies on Twitter, the worse that relations amongst allies becomes — providing an opening for North Korea to crack alliances.

Trump has been continuously threatening North Korea, even declaring that the U.S will meet the rogue nation with “fire and fury” if it continues to menace the U.S [3]. Global security suffers when Trump attempts to secure power for the United States through threats of action. It is clear that North Korea is willing to retaliate, and any threats from the President of the United States give it reason enough to do so. The blame on China for aggravating peace agreements is a refusal to take responsibility for the U.S’ own actions on fueling the crisis.

The Trump administration claims it is only protecting the United States with its own threats; playing hardball is necessary in order to scare off the threat of a North Korean attack. However, members of Trump’s own party are not even certain of Trump’s  negotiating methods. Senator John McCain has said, “The great leaders I’ve seen don’t threaten unless they’re ready to act and I’m not sure President Trump is ready to act” [3]. Additionally, Steve Bannon has said that there is no real “military solution” to the issue of a nuclear North Korea, and most officials are stumped on what to do [4].

A solution that would alleviate tensions on all sides would be for President Trump to halt his reckless accusations of China and threats to North Korea. The White House should take a more diplomatic approach and apologize to China for it’s accusations, promising to only make criticism when the facts are undeniably true. Congress can also enact a law that prohibits the president from declaring a preventive war using nuclear weapons on North Korea. It has been proven again and again that President Trump’s irrationality and reckless tweets puts the country and the entire world at danger for a potential nuclear war.  While sanctions should be abided by the UNSC, we also have to understand China’s position — their proximity to North Korea puts them directly in the line of fire if they defect. They clearly need America’s support and want to act as cautiously as possible when dealing with North Korea.

Coming at North Korea with a threats of a preventive strike (striking first to destroy capability of an imminent attack) will also surely provoke an attack for survival [5]. The isolated country wants to be able survive, and knows it will be crushed on all sides if it attacks any member of the liberal international order — normally it would be cautious to strike. As it looks now, Trump’s comments give North Korea close to no choice but to retaliate and die fighting. The likelihood of North Korea retaliating comes with big costs to the world itself, as a nuclear attack would taint the environment and kills millions instantly. At the end of the day, negotiation with North Korea should be occur as calmly and diplomatically as possible to avoid disastrous doom. That does not begin with the current state of President Trump’s reputation and actions towards the country.

Take Action:

If you want to learn more about what the consequences of a U.S-North Korea war would be, please watch this CNN video:

In order to relay your concern over the President’s actions and statements towards North Korea or allies, you can go to and send a message to President Trump.

To understand the urgency of the potential of nuclear war with North Korea, and how serious threats of a nuclear strike are, feel free to watch this video on how fellow U.S ally Japan is preparing for a nuclear attack:



  1. Agencies, G. S. (2017, December 28). Trump claims China ‘caught red handed’ transferring oil to North Korea. Retrieved January 03, 2018, from
  2. O’Connor, T. (2017, December 30). China says “this is not how a U.S. president should behave” after Trump tweet. Retrieved January 03, 2018, from
  3. Zeleny, J., Merica, D., & Liptak, K. (2017, August 09). Trump’s ‘fire and fury’ remark was improvised but familiar. Retrieved January 03, 2018, from
  4. Lewis, J. (2017, December 29). Trump Is Bluffing About Attacking North Korea in 2018. Retrieved January 03, 2018, from
  5. Davis, L. C., U., & R. (2017, November 30). A ‘preventive strike’ against North Korea would trigger ‘nuclear retaliation,’ says US Army veteran. Retrieved January 03, 2018, from



Cassandra Morales is a Political Science and Anthropology student at Wellesley College. In addition to being a Policy Corner Writer for PVNN, she dedicates her time working with the largest Latinx-run organization at Wellesley - MEZCLA - as Political Action Chair. As a daughter of immigrants and a first-generation college student, she has strong ambitions to fight for social equality and the rights of marginalized communities. She considers herself socially and fiscally liberal, with a willingness to debate with an open-mind. As a writer, she is mostly focused on health care, race relations, and civil rights.