The US president’s incoherent rhetoric undermines many long-held certainties. Yet calls are growing in Beijing for stronger action against Pyongyang

Even a man as self-deluding and indifferent to truth as Donald Trump is unable to claim that his threats have cowed North Korea. Five weeks ago, he warned of “fire and fury”. Since then, Pyongyang has launched three missiles – two over Japan – and tested another nuclear bomb. Trump continues to wave his stick, talking on Friday of “effective and overwhelming” options, despite widespread warnings of the immense risk that they would bring catastrophe, not least for US allies and service people.

Allies fear he is genuinely willing to take military action. Most probably, he believes he will not need to do so: if only he keeps shouting, the North Koreans will fall into line eventually.

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