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Concern raised about Trump, nuclear codes

New United States President Donald Trump has not fared very well in his first eight months in office. His bid to stop the entry of visitors from six mostly Muslim countries was held back for months by courts. He has received no support for his plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico. The US Congress, despite its Republican majority, has not approved his health care bill with which he had hoped to replace the previous administration’s Obamacare.

When white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan demonstrated in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a car plowed into counter-demonstrators, killing one woman, President Trump’s immediate reaction was to put the blame on “many sides” for the violence. He yielded a day later to severe criticism and singled out the white supremacists, but went back days later to blaming “both sides.” Several top business executives in his Business Advisory Council immediately resigned.

These incidents were chiefly of interest to Americans, with the rest of the world just looking on and wondering at the vagaries of US politics. Last week, however, a new element entered the picture, which raised a danger that would affect the entire world should it come to pass. This fear, as expressed by a former Director of National Intelligence (DNI), was that Trump “in a fit of pique,” just might launch nuclear weapons at North Korea without consulting Congress or any other official.

James Clapper, who was DNI for seven years under former President Obama, said Trump now has access to the nuclear codes and could, by himself, order a nuclear attack on North Korea, which he had earlier warned of “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” Clapper said that if Trump suddenly decides to do something about Kim Jong Un, “there’s actually very little to stop him.”

A bill has now been filed in the US Congress by a Democratic senator and a congressman that would prohibit the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress.

It is believed that the world today has 14,900 nuclear weapons, most of which belong to the US and Russia. There are three other states – China, France, and the United Kingdom – which are officially recognized as nuclear weapons states by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. And there are four states which did not sign the treaty but are believed to have around 340 nuclear weapons – Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea.

The missile tests by North Korea have long been a cause of concern because of Kim Jong Un’s boasts that its nuclear weapons can now reach most of the US, but it has just been a lot of talk so far. We hope that Trump’s counter-threat of “fire and fury” will also remain just talk. We also hope that the US Congress will move speedily on the bill requiring congressional approval before a nuclear first strike.