Speed Reads

a twist

South Korea denies that Trump threatened Pyongyang with a preemptive strike

President Trump's fraught rhetoric on North Korea took yet another turn Wednesday, after Reuters reported that the president backed off his recent aggression toward dictator Kim Jong Un in a phone call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. In the conversation with Moon, Trump apparently rejected recent reports that he is debating launching a preemptive strike against North Korea, calling those rumors "completely wrong."

Reuters notes that Trump's alleged remarks were reported only via South Korea's post-call readout. The White House did not mention Trump's reported pacifism in its statement after the conversation, instead highlighting Trump's desire to solve the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula through diplomacy with Kim "under the right circumstances."

Stories claiming Trump was exploring a preemptive strike against Kim's regime were published by The Telegraph, Yahoo News, and The Wall Street Journal all within three weeks of each other. All outlined the same basic premise: that the White House is considering a limited strike on North Korea, referred to as "the bloody-nose option."

The plan apparently hinged on the assumption that Kim would be in awe of America's military might and curtail his nuclear ambitions accordingly. The Journal's story, however, noted that some in the White House raised the possibility that Kim would overreact to any strike — and go to war in response.

Read more about the delicate dance between Trump and Kim here at The Week.