Bill Perry, who served as secretary of defense for former President Bill Clinton, told Politico on Wednesday that nuclear war has “become more probable in the last year, partly because of President Trump,” and partly due to events beyond the president’s control.
He added that Trump doesn’t understand the North Koreans, and doesn’t understand what his rhetoric is doing.
Trump has often deviated from diplomatic protocols and attacked leaders of other nations by calling them names.
He stirred a controversy a few weeks back by deriding North Korea leader Kim Jong-un as “rocket man,” a move that experts said was unbecoming of a president.
Perry mentioned US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as a “stabilizing influence” with this president.
Mattis had previously said the United States would never accept a nuclear North Korea, warning of a "massive military response" to any use of nuclear weapons against Washington or its allies.
“The order can go directly from the president to the Strategic Air Command. The defense secretary is not necessarily in that loop. So, in a five- or six- or seven-minute kind of decision, the secretary of defense probably never hears about it until it’s too late. If there is time, and if he does consult the secretary, it’s advisory, just that,” Perry explained. “Whether [the president] goes with it or doesn’t go with it—[the secretary] doesn’t have the authority to stop it.”
Trump has attempted to portray his administration as much more willing than former US administrations to resort to military action against the North.
“This is a very different administration than the United States has had in the past,” Trump said addressing South Korea’s National Assembly last week. “Do not underestimate us. And do not try us,” he added, apparently addressing North Korea.
“I think we can learn some lessons from negotiating with North Korea, but I think the Trump administration has learned a wrong lesson. They’re tough negotiators. They’ve demonstrated an inclination and a capacity to evade and cheat on treaties. So I think what we’ve learned from that is that when we negotiate with them, we ought to have strong verification. Even the Agreed Framework—which I believe they cheated on toward the end of the century—delayed their nuclear program by probably six, or seven or eight years,” Perry added.
North Korea is under mounting international pressure over its missile and military nuclear programs and has been subjected to an array of sanctions by the United Nations. However, Pyongyang says it needs to continue and develop the programs as a deterrent against hostility by the US and its regional allies, including South Korea and Japan.