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Poll: Far more trust generals than Trump on North Korea, while two-third oppose pre-emptive strike

Roughly three-quarters of the public supports tougher economic sanctions on North Korea

Gulf News

Washington: Two-thirds of Americans oppose launching a pre-emptive military strike against North Korea, with a majority trusting the US military to handle the escalating nuclear crisis responsibly but not President Donald Trump, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds.

Roughly three-quarters of the public supports tougher economic sanctions on North Korea in an attempt to persuade it to give up its nuclear weapons, while just about one-third think the US should offer the isolated country foreign aid or other incentives.

The Washington Post-ABC poll finds 37 per cent of adults trust Trump either “a great deal” or “a good amount” to responsibly handle the situation with North Korea, while 42 per cent trust the commander in chief “not at all”. By comparison, 72 per cent trust US military leaders, including 43 per cent saying they trust them “a great deal”.

Opposing viewpoint

A scant 8 per cent of Americans surveyed think North Korean leader Kim Jong-un can act responsibly.

Overall, Trump’s image continues to be negative, with 39 per cent of Americans approving and 57 per cent disapproving of the President’s job performance. But the poll finds that clear majorities approve of Trump’s response to recent hurricanes and support the agreement he struck with Democrats providing emergency disaster-relief funding and raising the nation’s debt limit.

A war of words this past week between Trump and Kim may have opened a potentially dangerous new chapter in the North Korea crisis.

Kim called Trump “a mentally deranged US dotard”, Trump denounced Kim as a “madman”, and each vowed to test the other as never before. Washington rolled out new sanctions on Thursday and made a show of military force Saturday by flying bombers along the North Korea coast, a day after Pyongyang said it might soon conduct a hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific.

Trump’s use of aggressively personal taunts — the President nicknamed Kim “Rocket Man” in an address at the United Nations (UN) last week — defies convention and is seen by veteran diplomats as exceedingly risky.

The large gap in confidence between Trump and the US military, as measured in the new poll, comes as Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other national security officials have emphasised a diplomatic approach to North Korea. Although Mattis has made clear that the US is prepared and willing to retaliate to any attack with overwhelming force, he also has shied away from the rhetorical bombast employed by his boss.

Faith in Trump’s handling of the biggest foreign policy crisis of his presidency is coloured sharply by partisanship. While 11 per cent of Democrats and 36 per cent of independents say they trust Trump to act responsibly in dealing with North Korea, more than three-quarters of Republicans say they trust the President, although just over half trust him “a great deal”.

Partisans are relatively united, however, in their concern about nuclear-armed North Korea. A record high 70 per cent of Americans say North Korea poses a “serious threat” to the US, including roughly seven in 10 Democrats and independents and about eight in 10 Republicans.

Trump’s overall job approval rating has stabilised at 39 per cent in the new poll after slipping to 36 per cent in July. The shift is within the poll’s margin of sampling error but is mirrored in the small rise in other recent national polls. Still, more Americans “strongly” disapprove of his job performance, 48 per cent, than approve of it either “strongly” or “somewhat”.