President Trump informed North Korea that he too has a “nuclear button," riffing off of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s claim Monday that the U.S. should know he has such a device readily available on his desk.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,’” Trump tweeted Tuesday evening. “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
Trump’s tweet follows comments made by Kim that he had a button for nuclear weapons already at his disposal.
"The U.S. should know that the button for nuclear weapons is on my table," he said during his annual New Year's Day speech, according to The Associated Press.
"The entire area of the U.S. mainland is within our nuclear strike range. ...The United States can never start a war against me and our country," Kim said.
North Korea ramped up its nuclear weapons and missile programs in 2017, Trump's first year in office.
Pyongyang launched multiple missile tests throughout the year and claimed a test in November was with a new type of ballistic missile. Experts were concerned that the test demonstrated an increasing capability of striking the entire U.S. mainland.
North Korea also conducted a nuclear test in September — its most powerful one so far.
In December, the United Nations Security Council made a unanimous decision to implement stricter sanctions upon a North Korea, in response to the missile test.
The new sanctions will lower limits of North Korea’s oil imports, require North Koreans working abroad to return to North Korea within 24 months to deprive the nation of foreign currency, and crack down on North Korea’s exports.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump tweeted that the sanctions were having a significant effect on the regime.
“Sanctions and ‘other’ pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea,” he said. “Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea. Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not - we will see!”
Although presidents do not have a “nuclear button,” a briefcase known as a “football” is carried by a military aide, wherever the president goes. The “football” includes communication infrastructure and a briefing booklet with several war options for the president to pick.
The briefcase contains a sealed packet with an authentication code that allows officials to know an order from the president has been given to launch nuclear weapons. Then, the National Military Command Center translates it into an emergency actions message, which is then sent to a command center to release the nuclear weapons.
The Trump administration has said it has not ruled out a military option for handling North Korea, but stressed it would rather take a diplomatic route.