US President Donald Trump has boasted that his nuclear button is “much bigger” and “more powerful” than North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s.
Mr Trump’s tweet is the latest contribution to the increasingly personalised feud between the nuclear-armed leaders.
Unsurprisingly, Mr Trump’s unorthodox words sent social media into a frenzy.
It ended a quickfire day of tweeting by Mr Trump that included taking credit for a lack of plane crashes, announcing awards for “corrupt media”, and threatening to pull aid from Palestinians who do not show “appreciation or respect”.
Mr Trump’s latest comment states the obvious: any US president has immediate access to the nuclear codes and the US has the world’s biggest nuclear arsenal.
North Korea claims it has nuclear weapons and could strike the US, but while analysts agree that Pyongyang has nuclear weapons, it is not clear whether it has the technology to use them in anger.
And in contrast to the bickering on Twitter, there was good news on the Korean peninsula itself as the North reopened a telephone hotline to the South.
Just as President Trump’s unorthodox Twitter habits have puzzled observers in the past, the tweet is again redefining what’s considered a diplomatic or presidential tone.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018
“I guess the president regards this as a show of strength,” said Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, on CNN. “But as everybody who’s ever been in a… first grade playground recognises, it’s usually the person who’s most aggressively pounding their chest that is in fact the weak one on the playground.”
Eliot A Cohen, who advised the Republican former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said the tweet was childish yet deadly serious.
Spoken like a petulant ten year old. But one with nuclear weapons – for real – at his disposal. How responsible people around him, or supporting him, can dismiss this or laugh it off is beyond me. https://t.co/uKu6p1KUWp
— Eliot A Cohen (@EliotACohen) January 3, 2018
And activists agreed.
I had to just reassure my teen-age daughter not to panic about nuclear war with North Korea because she read Trump’s tweet. I’m so filled with rage at Donald Trump.
— Neera Tanden?? (@neeratanden) January 3, 2018
Several argued that Twitter should not allow “calls for nuclear war” to be broadcast on its platform.
Hey @TwitterSupport, is it against your terms of service to provoke nuclear war with North Korea here? Don’t you guys have a button that’s even bigger than Donald Trump’s that you can use to shut this down? pic.twitter.com/7RjVd00Jnw
— Dani Bostick (@danibostick) January 3, 2018
But Mr Trump’s supporters have defended him, saying his comments were both factually accurate and showed American strength and resolve.
Much of the social media comment has focused on Mr Trump’s apparent fixation with size.
During his presidential campaign, Mr Trump had a long-running spat with Marco Rubio over the size of his hands.
At the time, Mr Trump insisted: “He referred to my hands – ‘if they are small, something else must be small’. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee.”
This connection was not missed by social media users.
So far, the only button on Mr Trump’s desk the world knew about was one that orders a Diet Coke to be brought to his room.
At least that’s what US media reported after seeing said button in action during interviews.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim have a colourful history of name-calling.
Earlier this year, the North Korean denounced the US president as a “dotard”, while Mr Trump has developed the nickname of “Little Rocket Man” for Mr Kim.