Photos: Bloomberg, Getty; photo illustration: Tom Hall/Bloomberg

Balance of Power: Bluster, Strategy and Dealing With North Korea

Bluster or Strategy?

Donald Trump is making his penchant for verbal combat a key part of his strategy toward North Korea as the face-off over Pyongyang’s weapons program intensifies.

A day after his threat to unleash “fire and fury” against Kim Jong Un’s regime, the president's advisers said his rhetoric was part of a calculated shift away from what they consider decades of unsuccessful policies by previous administrations.

“Our approach to engagement with the world has to be completely rethought,” Trump adviser Stephen Miller told Britain’s LBC radio. He suggested that one intended audience for the president's tough talk was China, which Trump says must do more to rein in its neighbor.

Not everyone got that memo. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wasn’t consulted ahead of time. Even new White House Chief of Staff John Kelly -- who has broad authority to vet Trump’s public statements -- only knew in general terms what the president planned to say.

So it’s hard to determine who is really setting administration policy on North Korea right now.

Unsurprisingly, North Korea is reveling in Trump’s attention. State-run media dismissed his comments today as “a load of nonsense,” saying “only absolute force can work on him.”

U.S. President Donald Trump listens to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson May 21, 2017.
Photographer: MANDEL NGAN/AFP

Global Headlines

Meanwhile, the Russia probe | Trump’s belligerence toward North Korea has drawn attention away from the White House’s least favorite story: the escalating probes into the ties between Trump World and Moscow. But that’s unlikely to last long. News that the FBI searched the Virginia home of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on July 26 shows that special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry is progressing.

What does Kim do now? | North Korea responded to Trump with a detailed plan to launch missiles into the waters off Guam, a strategic base for U.S. military forces. Unless Trump is ready to offer an olive branch, analysts say North Korea will keep firing rockets and testing bombs until he achieves the nuclear capability he so craves. Otherwise, the thinking in Pyongyang goes, the regime will meet the same fate of Afghanistan and Iraq, which were both invaded by the U.S. As this graphic analysis shows, the window to stop Kim is closing fast.

Back from the dead in Argentina | Just a few months ago, former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s career seemed over after her chosen successor was defeated in national elections and corruption allegations piled up. Now she’s back and running for the Senate, with polls showing her on track to defeat President Mauricio Macri’s candidate in Sunday’s primaries. Watch the peso, which has lost about 8 percent of its value since she announced plans to run.

Drugs and a Mexican soccer star | U.S. officials yesterday accused Mexico soccer captain Rafael Marquez of having links to a major drug trafficker, part of a broader action to freeze assets held by Mexican nationals. Marquez, 38, played for a host of teams across the world, including Barcelona, during a career that has spanned nearly two decades.

Brazil tries to fix itself | With Brazilians’ faith in democracy sapped by graft, dysfunction and protest, local lawmakers are discussing ways to overhaul the country’s messy and costly political system. But as Simone Iglesias and Samy Adghirni report, there’s so far only one proposal that most legislators agree on: the need for more public money to fund election campaigns.

Xi’s temperance movement | China’s president is preparing for a big Communist Party reshuffle this year with a return to his signature campaign against lavish consumption. This time, Xi Jinping is asking cadres to disclose exactly how much they’ve spent on luxury alcohol such as Moutai and the names of people who attended banquets where it was served. Fortunately for producers of the fiery spirit, a bouyant economy has offset falling sales to party officials, one reason why investors shrugged off the news.

And finally... If you want to live like Trump but gold-plated hotels aren't your style, there's another option. His childhood home in Queens was listed on Airbnb starting at $725 a night. The Tudor-style five bedroom, 3 1/2-bath Jamaica Estates house features a big cutout of the president in the living room. Nothing much has changed since his family lived there, so you could have a cup of coffee in your bathrobe in the kitchen where young Donald ate breakfast. No parties, though. Or pets.

Donald Trump’s boyhood home in New York.
Photographer: Kathy Willens/AP
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