President Donald Trump nearly provoked North Korea into war with a single tweet, renowned journalist Bob Woodward said in an interview with “CBS Sunday Morning” that aired Sunday.
In the interview, Woodward discussed his new book “Fear: Trump in the White House,” and said Trump is fixated on the fact that the US spends $3.5 billion a year to station troops in South Korea in order to maintain military presence on the peninsula.
“I don’t know why they’re there,” Trump reportedly told top officials during a meeting, according to Woodward’s explosive book. “Let’s get them out.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis explained to Trump in another meeting that troops are there in order to “prevent World War III,” the book claims.
In October, Trump tweeted that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” and reportedly told former Staff Secretary Rob Porter that his tweet “may be my best [tweet] ever.”
According to Woodward, Porter asked the president if the tweet might provoke Kim, to which he replied “it’s leader versus leader. Man versus man. Me versus Kim.”
Woodward told CBS that the most “dangerous” moment of Trump’s standoff with Kim Jong Un came when the president went to produce another provocative tweet.
“He drafts a tweet saying ‘We are going to pull our dependents from South Korea — family members of the 28,000 people there,'” Woodward told CBS.
According to Woodward, the tweet was never sent out after backchannel communications with North Korea made clear that the nation would regard the move as a sign the US was preparing to wage war on the North.
“In that moment there was a sense of profound alarm in the Pentagon leadership that, my God, one tweet and we have reliable information that the North Koreans are going to read this as ‘an attack is imminent,'” Woodward said.
Woodward told CBS that Trump’s staffers are concerned that the president could make an impulsive decision that could have major global consequences.
“People who work for him are worried that he will sign things or give orders that threaten the national security or the financial security of the country or the world.”
Relations with North Korea are on edge
Relations between Trump and Kim have grown stale since their summit in June, where both parties pledged to move towards denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.
Last month, Trump reportedly canceled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to North Korea after the country sent out a mysterious letter, pointing to potential hostilities between the two leaders.
In recent months, North Korea has upped its rhetoric against the US, and North Korea’s state newspaper accused Washington of plotting to “unleash a war” on Pyongyang while continuing to negotiate “with a smile on its face.”
Kim told China’s state broadcaster Sunday that North Korea is keeping up with its end of the agreement it reached in June and hopes the US keeps to its side of the deal.