Susan Rice, former US ambassador to the UN and national security adviser to Barack Obama, has blasted President Donald Trump’s “reckless rhetoric” on North Korea, saying that the US can “tolerate” a nuclear-armed Pyongyang.
In an op-ed published on Wednesday in the New York Times, the former ambassador to the UN downplayed North Korea’s threats, saying “we have long lived with successive Kims’ belligerent and colorful rhetoric.”
“[The] juxtaposition of tough sanctions and military exercises has predictably heightened North Korea’s threats,” and it was to be expected, Rice wrote referring to the recent sanctions against North Korea unanimously passed by the UN Security Council, as well as the large-scale military exercises that the United States conducts with South Korea every year.
Rice blasted Trump’s response to North Korea’s threats, calling it either folly or lunacy.
“Either Mr. Trump is issuing an empty threat of nuclear war, which will further erode American credibility and deterrence, or he actually intends war next time Mr. Kim behaves provocatively,” Rice wrote. “The first scenario is folly, but a United States decision to start a pre-emptive war on the Korean Peninsula, in the absence of an imminent threat, would be lunacy.”
She has also criticized Trump’s national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, for saying last week that if North Korea “had nuclear weapons that can threaten the United States, it’s intolerable from the president’s perspective.”
The US can tolerate a nuclear North Korea, Rice argued, “the same way we tolerated the far greater threat of thousands of Soviet nuclear weapons during the Cold War.”
On Tuesday, Trump warned North Korea that it would “face fire and fury like the world has never seen” if Pyongyang continued threatening the US and South Korea.
A number of Democrats have condemned his comments as inappropriate, with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent, calling it “bombastic rhetoric” out of place in a potential nuclear showdown.
Some of the president’s critics among the Republicans, however, seemed enthusiastic about the prospect of war. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) told radio host Hugh Hewitt on Thursday that Trump is “mentally” ready to preemptively strike North Korea “if negotiations fail,” citing his conversation with the president.
“We should deny them the ability to grow their nuclear arsenal,” Graham tweeted on Thursday. “Cannot allow North Korea’s capability to mature that puts every American in crosshairs of a nuclear attack by unstable provocative leader of [North Korea].”
Other Republicans took issue with Rice’s standing to criticize the current administration’s actions. Rice gained notoriety in 2012, when she described the attack on the US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya as a spontaneous response to an an anti-Islamic video produced in California. Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stephens, were killed in the attack.
President Obama appointed Rice his national security adviser in 2013, as Benghazi fallout cast a shadow on her prospects of replacing Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.
In February 2016, after Pyongyang conducted a missile test, Rice endorsed a sanctions package adopted by the Republican majority in Congress.
“North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programs represent serious threats to our interests – including the security of some of our closest allies – and undermine peace and security in the broader region,” Rice said at the time.