Donald Trump’s talk of annihilating North Korea with “fire and fury likes of which the world has never seen” – a threat delivered from his golf resort in New Jersey – was by far the most aggressive rhetoric used by a US president in difficult dealings with the East Asian country.
In effect, it mirrored the routinely florid and bellicose statements made by Kim Jong-un and it was hardly surprising that the response from Pyongyang was also belligerent, declaring that it would launch an attack on the American military base in Guam.
At one level this could be viewed as the loud emoting of two rather strange and comical characters in which the only escalating exchanges would be of hot air. This, however, is taking place in a volatile scenario in both East Asia and Washington and one of the men is the commander of the most powerful military in the world. The danger faced is the law of unintended consequences.