According To His Tweets, Trump’s North Korea Policy Will Constitute Genocide

Bombastic rhetoric aside, the president’s self-expressed response to North Korea would defy the UN and spur a global crisis.

By Marjorie Cohn, Contributor
Professor Emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law


Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” in his address to the United Nations General Assembly on September 19. That threat violates the UN charter, and indicates an intent to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, the war crime of collective punishment and international humanitarian law. Moreover, a first-strike use of nuclear weapons would violate international law.

By threatening to attack North Korea, Trump is endangering the lives of countless people. In the past, he has indicated his willingness to use nuclear weapons and Kim Jong-un has threatened to retaliate. The rapidly escalating rhetoric and provocative maneuvers on both sides has taken us to the brink of war.

Trump’s threat prompted North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-ho to state, “Given the fact that this [threat] came from someone who holds the seat of the U.S. presidency, this is clearly a declaration of war.”