Donald Trump’s personal Twitter account is one of the reasons that he won the 2016 US presidential election. It allowed him to insult challengers and refute naysayers, build his fanbase by hand, and launch a new subgroup of political coverage.
But as US president, Trump’s use of the social network to bully foreign governments is dangerous, as the Chinese government seemed to say today. “We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” China’s foreign minister warned.
On Twitter, policy statements that would normally go through layers of diplomatic experts have been unleashed by Trump with no apparent vetting. Earlier this week, Trump tweeted from his own account and from the official @POTUS one that North Korea was “looking for trouble,” and threatened to “solve the problem.”
Such statements have fueled a “vicious cycle” of tensions on the Korean peninsula, North Korea’s vice foreign minister told the Associated Press in an interview. “Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words,” Han Song Ryol said, adding it was the US, not North Korea that was making trouble. “We will go to war if they choose,” he added.
Trump is only the second US president to have an official presidential Twitter account, and the first was carefully curated by Barack Obama’s staff. In the interest of global security, it may now be time for Trump’s staff to take @POTUS out of his hands, and convince him to stop tweeting about politically sensitive matters from his own account.
Together, Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un are a toxic combination of insular, inexperienced leadership, and a desire to appear strong at home. More damage to fragile US-North Korea relations could be done this coming weekend, when North Korea celebrates the birthday of its founder (typically a time to try out new military equipment) and Trump stews alone at his golf club in Florida. He is apparently without the calming presence of his daughter and son-in-law, who were skiing in Whistler, British Columbia, for Passover on Monday.