Trump just set his own, uncrossable ‘red line’ — and North Korea crossed it instantly


President Donald Trump appears to have painted himself into a corner: He must now follow up on his pledge of hitting North Korea with “fire and fury,” or he risks further blowing U.S. credibility.

Kim Jong-un’s regime said late on Tuesday that it may strike Guam. That came shortly after Trump warned Pyongyang it would face “power, the likes of which this world has never seen before” if the renegade state continued to threaten the U.S.

“If the red line he drew today was ‘North Korea cannot threaten the U.S. anymore,’ that line was crossed within an hour of him making that statement,” said John Delury, associate professor of Chinese studies at Seoul-based Yonsei University.

The episode draws parallels to President Barack Obama’s own geopolitical red line.

In 2013, the former leader said the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war would trigger an American military response. But when it happened, Obama failed to follow up on his promise — a move that critics, including Trump, said weakened Washington’s position as a superpower.

“Trump is drawing a decisive red line for himself, we all think back to Obama’s red line in Syria, which ultimately became an embarrassment for him,” Peter Jennings, Australia’s former deputy secretary in defense, told CNBC.

So, will Trump attack?

A U.S. offensive on North Korea isn’t likely anytime soon, experts said, which means Trump just made the same mistake as his predecessor.

“Certainly the president cannot back up a red line,” said Delury, who is also a senior fellow at the Asia Society.

Defense secretary James Mattis and new chief of staff John Kelly are unlikely to sign off on any military action, so this may just be yet another example of “Trump being Trump and firing off his mouth,” added Robert Kelly, associate professor at Pusan National University.

The Republican has certainly chalked up a lengthy track record of unsupported statements. For one, his administration said in April that an aircraft carrier strike group was headed toward North Korea when the vessel was actually in Indonesian waters.

Instead of interpreting Trump’s remark as a red line, the president may be playing the role of the madman, in a ruse to pressure the Chinese to get tough on Kim, Kelly continued.

Trump’s ultimatum of “fire and fury” came after a Washington Post report said the pariah state was capable of building a miniaturized nuclear weapon.

“In the short term, the Americans will wait and see if the latest sanctions change North Korea’s behavior,” said Jennings, currently executive director at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. Continue reading.