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Trump taunts Kim Jong Un: my nuclear button “is a much bigger & more powerful one”

Trump escalates tensions with North Korea in a tweet.

Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

President Donald Trump taunted Kim Jong Un Tuesday night, bragging about his “Nuclear Button” and how it is “much bigger & more powerful” than the North Korean leader’s.

This exchange between two nuclear powers came after Kim Jong Un delivered a New Year’s address Monday in which he boasted about North Korea’s nuclear program, saying its missiles could reach the United States and that a nuclear button is "always on the desk of my office."

Kim described this not as a threat but as “reality,” and said he would not use it unless provoked — if “hostile aggression forces” went after the country’s interests. In his speech, Kim also made overtures toward South Korea, suggesting possible talks with North Korea’s neighbors to the South — a move some saw as having the potential to drive a wedge between the US and South Korean alliance.

Trump responded Tuesday evening with his dangerous boast about his nuclear button. Earlier in the day, though, he seemed to welcome the news that North Korea seemed willing to engage with the South, indicating it was a sign of the effectiveness of sanctions and “other” unspecified pressures.

It’s unclear what prompted the Trump’s renewed bellicosity, though this isn’t the first time the president has appeared to threaten nuclear war seemingly on the fly. In August, Trump warned Kim’s nuclear threats would be met with “fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

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