In addition to apparently giving Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte a pat on the back for the extrajudicial slaughter of thousands of small-time drug users and dealers, President Trump apparently made another major stumble during the leaders' April phone call: revealing where our nuclear submarines are.
On Tuesday, a leaked transcript of their conversation revealed that Trump reassured Duterte that America has "a lot of firepower" near North Korea. "We have two submarines — the best in the world. We have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all," Trump said.
Defense officials were horrified. "We never talk about the subs!" three separate Pentagon officials told BuzzFeed News. While the U.S. announces the movements of aircraft carriers as a show of force — and because they're not very easy to hide — submarines "are, at times, a furtive complement to the carriers, a hard-to-detect means of strategic deterrence," BuzzFeed News writes:
By announcing the presence of nuclear submarines, the president, some Pentagon officials privately explained, gives away the element of surprise — an irony given his repeated declarations during the campaign that the U.S. announces far too many of its military plans when it comes to combating ISIS.
Moreover, some countries in the region, particularly China, seek to develop their anti-sub capability. Knowing that two U.S. submarines are in the region could allow them to test their own military capabilities. [BuzzFeed News]
Additionally, it is unclear why Trump chose to volunteer the potentially sensitive information to Duterte, as the Philippines are not involved with the U.S. military on de-escalating and deterring North Korean aggression. Following Trump's highly criticized decision to share extraordinarily sensitive intelligence with the Russians "off script" earlier this month, his comments to Duterte are "likely to raise questions about his handling of sensitive information," Reuters reports.