Global Zero Responds to Nuclear Flare-Up Between Trump and Kim

Over the past two days, President Trump has taken to Twitter to weigh in on North Korea, bragging that his “Nuclear Button” is “much bigger and more powerful” than Kim Jong-un’s, and that direct talks between North Korea and South Korea are a result of his continued antagonism.

In reaction to the recent escalation of rhetoric between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, Derek Johnson, executive director of Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons, issued the following statement:

“This latest flare-up between Trump and Kim puts us into very dangerous, very Freudian waters. It’s deeply alarming to see two self-aggrandizing men with something to prove face off with nuclear weapons. Worse, Trump’s tweet this morning suggests the president actually believes his destabilizing rhetoric is paying off. We have every reason to expect he will continue to brandish these nuclear threats — which means this crisis will only worsen.

“Nuclear war is not a game; we are flirting with unacceptably high risks that carry catastrophic consequences for the country and the world. No one can afford to not take Trump’s threats seriously — least of all the North Koreans, who could be provoked into striking first in order to preempt what they perceive as an imminent attack.

“When Trump boasts of the big red button on his desk, it’s backed up by virtually limitless authority to make good on his threats. The nuclear briefcase follows him everywhere. At any moment he can pick up the phone and order a nuclear strike. Once he makes the call, there are zero safeguards we can count on to prevent that order from being executed. The system designed to carry it out is designed solely for deference and speed.

“It’s difficult to overstate the consequences of such an act by the president. Even without a retaliatory strike by North Korea — a response that would almost certainly come, killing tens of thousands of people in the region, including deployed American forces — the death toll would be horrific and far-reaching.

“Every effort must be made to avoid that nightmare scenario. President Trump must drop the escalatory bravado and immediately open a direct line of communication with Pyongyang, without preconditions. Unless we’re prepared to see mushroom clouds in Northeast Asia — and possibly here at home — we need to let the diplomats do their vital work. Only diplomacy can stop this conflict from going nuclear.”

In June of 2017, Global Zero’s Nuclear Crisis Group released a set of urgent recommendations to avoid the use of nuclear weapons and called on national leaders to act now to reduce the unacceptably high risk of nuclear conflict. The report called for the United States and North Korea to begin immediate discussions, without any preconditions, to reduce the risk of conflict. Full denuclearization through the “Six Party” process, including a freeze on nuclear and missile tests, production of nuclear materials, suspensions of military exercises, and negotiation of a formal peace regime will take time, but must not be allowed to prevent urgently needed discussions to avoid escalation of nuclear risk.

The following nuclear security experts and members of the Nuclear Crisis Group are available to answer questions on the escalating crisis on the Korean Peninsula:

  • Jon Wolfsthal is a senior advisor to Global Zero. From 2014 to 2017, he served as special assistant to former U.S. president Barack Obama as senior director for arms control and nonproliferation at the National Security Council. In that post, he was the most senior White House official setting and implementing U.S. government policy on all aspects of arms control, nonproliferation, and nuclear policy. Prior to that, he served as the deputy director of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute for International Studies. From 2009 to 2012, he was the special adviser to former U..S. Vice President Joe Biden for nuclear security and nonproliferation and as a director for nonproliferation on the National Security Council. He supported the Obama administration’s negotiation and ratification of the New START arms reduction agreement with the Russian Federation, and helped support the development of nuclear policy including through the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.
  • Dr. Bruce G. Blair is the co-founder of Global Zero, the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide. He is also a research scholar in the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Blair is an expert on expert on nuclear command and control, nuclear security policies and risks of nuclear weapons use. In 1999, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship Prize for his work on de-alerting nuclear forces. From 2000-2012, Blair was the founder and president of the World Security Institute, and from 1987 to 2000, he was a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution. He served as a project director at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment from 1982 to 1985. From 1970 to 1974, Blair served in the U.S. Air Force as a Minuteman ICBM launch control officer and as a support officer for the Strategic Air Command’s Airborne Command Post.

For interviews with Global Zero leaders, please contact Brett Abrams at 516-841-1105 or by email at [email protected].

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Global Zero is the international movement for the elimination of nuclear weapons. It is led by more than 300 eminent world leaders and backed by a half a million citizens worldwide. For more information, please visit