Critics across the U.S. political spectrum have slammed President Donald Trump's latest Twitter outburst against U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his handling of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.
“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump wrote on Twitter from his New Jersey golf resort, using a derisive nickname for Kim.
The move came a day after the top Tillerson admitted that the State Department had been probing Pyongyang for dialogue through multiple direct channels.
"Save your energy, Rex. We'll do what has to be done!" Trump added.
He later tweeted that his White House predecessors had all “failed” on North Korea by “Being nice to Rocket Man,” so “why would it work now?”
Trump's dismissive comments about Tillerson have sparked condemnation from figures across the Washington beltway, with many describing the move as "unpresidential.
Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul said on Twitter: “I'm hoping this is some clever good cop, bad cop strategy for dealing with North Korea. I fear it's not.”
Longtime diplomatic official and former State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said on Twitter that "undercutting your Secretary of State publicly is a cardinal sin of diplomacy," adding that it was “unpresidential.”
"What a way to run foreign policy. What a way to run international affairs," said former Pentagon spokesman Steve Warren on CNN. "Maybe pick up the telephone and call the secretary of state, (it) might be a better way to go about passing out your guidance on how to deal with (North Korea)."
Despite the criticism, Trump has defended his aggressive Twitter comments as “not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL.”
During his election campaign, Trump bragged that he is considered the “Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters,” adding that if one of his detractors says something bad about him, “bing bing bing — I say something really bad about them.”
The president has often resorted to Twitter to vent his frustration toward top officials. This past summer, Trump fired off a series of angry tweets blasting Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “VERY weak” for recusing himself from the federal investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Today's attack on Tillerson, however, raises questions about Trump's intentions toward tackling the growing crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
Trump has frequently issued threats to use military force while lodging personal insults toward North Korea's leader, despite White House and Pentagon officials urging that tensions be reduced through diplomacy.
South Korea's Moon Jae-In administration, which fears incurring a devastating counterattack in any potential military conflict, has struggled to play a relevant role in dealing with the issue. Despite Seoul's expressed hopes to take the “driver's seat” in the ongoing crisis, there are concerns that Trump won't take the South's interests into account in his crash course with Pyongyang.
"Our government has stated that dialogue can be pursued in multiple formats, including North Korea-U.S. and South Korea-North Korea bilateral talks and multilateral ones," South Korean presidential spokesman Park Soo-hyun said in a text message to reporters Sunday.
The North has refused to back down in the face of Trump's threats and insults, calling the U.S. leader a “dotard” and “a mad man” who will be “tamed” by the Korean People's Army.
On Sunday, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency published a statement by the Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee shredding Trump for having “twitted such rubbish” against the country.
"The more reckless behavior of Trump — ignorant of himself and the rival — will only harden the retaliatory will of the army and people of the DPRK against the U.S. It will precipitate the doomsday of the U.S. Trump should bear this in mind," the statement said.
DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"We once again warn the old psychopath of America against his hysteria. His brandishing of 'sanctions' club and muscle-flexing with tiger moth-like bombers before the fire-ready revolutionary forces of the DPRK is just a suicidal act of inviting a nuclear disaster that will reduce America into a sea of flames," it added.