Donald Trump is already speaking like Kim Jong Un. He must learn how to act differently, to prevent the conflict with North Korea from becoming a war.

North Korea, that late-blooming nuclear power, has always liked to rattle its saber. Its detestable regime has no other tools with which it can impress the world, nor even its own populace. Now, however, this belligerent rhetoric is causing unease with the American superpower, because Kim Jong Un and his backers have almost managed to mount nuclear warheads on intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The martial threats from Pyongyang can no longer be easily dismissed. The dictator may believe that he has finally signed a life insurance policy for his regime, but that would only work if the opposing party in this particular relationship of deterrence, i.e. those in Washington, viewed him as a rational actor. The behavior of his regime, which is constantly climbing the escalation ladder, raises doubts about that.

A Novice in This Area, Too

The future course of this long-smoldering conflict is certainly concerning, because an uncertainty factor has been added on the American side. Trump, who is given to reacting impulsively, is also a novice in this area. Apparently, he learned North Korea's language of fire and fury quite quickly. Hopefully, someone will teach him something about the Cuban Missile Crisis while he spends his summer vacation on the golf course. A crash course on the meaning of credibility in deterrence strategies would also be useful to the commander in chief of America’s armed forces, which are also nuclear-armed. You just have to remind him that he doesn't want to repeat Obama's mistakes.

Or, should Trump play the erratic, for which he has certainly shown a certain gift, to increase pressure on North Korea and China? Beijing is not interested in having a psychotic nuclear power, much less a war, right in its own backyard. The Chinese continue to have the greatest influence over Pyongyang, even if Kim Jong Un alone knows how great it is. It must be made clear to his regime in no uncertain terms that nuclear armament will not bring him security, but rather the opposite. Trump must yet learn to be extremely careful when threatening nuclear apocalypse, because it might be taken seriously – or not seriously enough.