U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman said in a radio interview this week that President Trump’s “unpredictable” remarks about nuclear confrontation with North Korea could be advantageous — but a Democratic challenger tore into the Aurora Republican’s comments and called on the president to drop the “bluster and chest pounding.”
While he usually isn’t a fan of Trump’s “impulsive behavior, his emotional outbursts,” Coffman told the hosts of KOA Colorado Morning News Wednesday, he said it could be good to keep Pyongyang off balance with the kind of escalating rhetoric Trump has used this week in response to North Korean nuclear threats.
Starting Tuesday, after news broke that North Korea might have produced a nuclear warhead small enough to deliver on a missile, Trump warned the reclusive dictatorship against making any more threats against the United States.
“They will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power the likes of which this world has never seen before,” Trump said from his New Jersey golf club. North Korea responded by threatening to attack Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific. The next day, Trump doubled down, telling reporters, “if anything, maybe that statement wasn’t tough enough.”
In a predawn tweet Friday morning, Trump ramped up the war of words with a more explicit warning: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
Military solutions are now fully in place,locked and loaded,should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2017
Asked in the radio interview whether Trump was “poking the bear” and whether it was justified, Coffman said he wasn’t bothered by the president’s comments.
“I’m usually not a fan of the president’s — what I call impulse behavior, his emotional outburst on this tweeting, but I think there may be something here, where sometimes it’s good where you have someone in charge who’s unpredictable, as Trump is, in terms of the other side assessing their options and where they can’t necessarily assess what the U.S. response is going to be, but very much aggressive,” Coffman said, adding, “It’s a tough situation for the United States.”
Coffman called it “a great success” that the Trump administration had been able to get the U.N. Security Council — including permanent members Russia and China — on board with sanctions against North Korea, suggesting that could help pressure North Korea to back down from its nuclear ambitions.
Although Coffman applauded Trump’s approach earlier in the week, a spokesman confirmed Friday that the congressman was sticking by his assessment.
“[H]e was referring to the importance of having the advantage or element of ‘surprise’ when dealing with adversaries,” Daniel Bucheli, Coffman’s communications director, told Colorado Politics.
Crow, an Army Ranger combat veteran and one of three Democrats running for Coffman’s seat in next year’s primary, had a decidedly less favorable take on Trump’s incendiary remarks.
“I’ve witnessed the devastation of war and the potential consequences of ‘tough talk,'” Crow said in a statement. “When politicians talk like this it rarely ends well. We need leaders who understand that their words have consequences. We need a foreign policy and national security strategy based on smart, deliberate and tough action, not bluster and chest pounding. There are over 20,000 U.S. troops stationed on the Korean Peninsula. For their sake and the sake of their families, I hope President Trump starts to appreciate the potential impact of his rhetoric. As I used to tell my soldiers before a combat mission: ‘Think about what you’re doing — you’re carrying live rounds now.'”
Coffman made a similar point about the risks in the radio interview after saying the United States might have to use its trade relationship with China to force more pressure on North Korea.
“Obviously, military options are always on the table, but, boy, it would be so devastating — not simply from a nuclear standpoint, but even from a conventional military standpoint. You’ve got enough artillery just on the north side of the Demilitarized Zone to pretty much level the capital of South Korea, where the concentration of that population is,” Coffman said. “It is a very unstable situation. It is getting worse. I think we are making positive strides trying to disarm the situation.”