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BY STATE SENATOR JAMES SANDERS, JR. 

Diplomatic relations with a foreign nation, especially one that has nuclear capabilities, like North Korea, must be handled firmly, but carefully. It is important how we construct our message and what venue we use to convey our words. A social media site like Twitter should not be the catalyst for name-calling and threats, especially not from a sitting President of the United States.

Now, we know that President Trump is not the most tactful person in the world and his careless remarks and ridiculous tweets have done more than ruffle the feathers of North Korea, and they have regarded them as a declaration of war.

It initially started after a phone call with the President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, where the two discussed imposing tougher sanctions on North Korea in order to stop its nuclear ambitions and weapons tests. President Trump referred to Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man.”

Trump wrote: “I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night. Asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!”

Speaking in a more serious tone at the UN, Trump called North Korea, a “band of criminals,” and added that if given no other choice, the U.S. would destroy North Korea.

Trump also tweeted a warning that leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer,” – something the dictator viewed as a direct threat, according to North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho.

Under those conditions, Ri Yong Ho added that this declaration of war gives Pyongyang the right to shoot down US bombers even if they are in international air space, and added, “The question of who won’t be around much longer will be answered then.”

The war of words then continued with Pyongyang saying that the United States would “pay dearly,” and called Trump a “mentally deranged dotard.” A dotard is defined as an old person, especially one who has become weak or senile.

The White House fired back, metaphorically speaking, with press secretary Sarah Huckabee stating that the notion that the United States had declared war on North Korea is “absurd,” and that it is never “appropriate to shoot down another country’s aircraft when it’s over international waters.”

Ironically, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the United States’ goal is to denuclearize North Korea and to do so “diplomatically.”

It doesn’t seem like that is what’s happening. I don’t know who is worse in this adolescent round of name calling – Kim Jong Un or President Trump. They are both acting like children; except their toys could potentially erase entire nations from the map.

It reminds me of that 1980s movie “War Games,” starring Matthew Broderick. He plays a high schooler who hacks into NORAD and starts a simulated war or “war game,” that nearly launches a real nuclear war with the then-Soviet Union. In the end, after running every simulation to determine the best outcome, the computer concludes – “The only winning move is not to play.”

And that’s the message that we must understand here. War has no winners especially if both players can completely annihilate each other. We need to get tough on North Korea, that much is true, but we should be sitting down to civil conversations with our allies, not playing foolish and very dangerous games.

Although this may seem more like an international issue, rather than a local one, let’s not forget how many members of the military live here in Southeast Queens and could be called to war if tensions with North Korea escalate.

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