In this undated image distributed on Sunday, September 3, 2017, by the North Korean government, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an undisclosed location.
AP
In this undated image distributed on Sunday, September 3, 2017, by the North Korean government, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an undisclosed location.
Now playing
02:31
Trump responds to North Korea bomb test
Nicolas Asfouri/Pool/Getty Images/AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS
Now playing
01:27
North, South Korean leaders to meet again
Airbus Defense and Space
Now playing
01:44
New images show N. Korea dismantling test site
CNNI
Now playing
00:40
Pompeo dismisses N. Korea's 'gangster' comments
SINGAPORE - JUNE 12: In this handout photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during their historic U.S.-DPRK summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held the historic meeting between leaders of both countries on Tuesday morning in Singapore, carrying hopes to end decades of hostility and the threat of North Korea's nuclear program. (Photo by Kevin Lim/THE STRAITS TIMES/Handout/Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
SINGAPORE - JUNE 12: In this handout photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shakes hands with U.S. President Donald Trump during their historic U.S.-DPRK summit at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island on June 12, 2018 in Singapore. U.S. President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held the historic meeting between leaders of both countries on Tuesday morning in Singapore, carrying hopes to end decades of hostility and the threat of North Korea's nuclear program. (Photo by Kevin Lim/THE STRAITS TIMES/Handout/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:56
Kim Jong Un snubbed Mike Pompeo, source says
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 09:  National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks on a morning television show from the grounds of the White House, on May 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. Yesterday President Donald Trump announced that America was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 09: National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks on a morning television show from the grounds of the White House, on May 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. Yesterday President Donald Trump announced that America was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:34
Bolton: US has plan for denuclearizing N. Korea
Planet Labs Inc.
Now playing
01:25
Satellite images show missile plant construction
CNN
Now playing
01:14
Susan Rice: Kim Jong Un beat Trump at summit
Images of the Norrth Korea missile launch on November 28 taken from Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's official newspaper.
From Rodong Sinmun
Images of the Norrth Korea missile launch on November 28 taken from Rodong Sinmun, North Korea's official newspaper.
Now playing
02:14
Will North Korea restart nuclear tests?
Photo Illustration/Getty Images
Now playing
03:00
Will Kim Jong Un ever give up his nukes?
Photo Illustration/Getty Images
Now playing
02:27
What's bringing Kim Jong Un to the table
Now playing
01:51
Who is Kim Jong Un?
CNN
Now playing
01:43
Connolly: Trump comment on Kim 'jaw-dropping'
Now playing
02:31
Moon: The masterful dealmaker
Trump Kim Jong Un comment 04240218
CNN
Trump Kim Jong Un comment 04240218
Now playing
01:26
Trump: Kim Jong Un very open and honorable
Now playing
03:06
Finding art on the edge of the DMZ

Story highlights

Trump's rhetoric set up a test of wills with North Korea's Kim Jong Un

Nothing the previous administrations did halted North Korea's nuclear program either

(CNN) —  

While triggering global geopolitical shockwaves, North Korea’s nuclear test also represents a flagrant personal challenge to President Donald Trump and his strategy of escalating the showdown with Pyongyang with explosive rhetoric.

With his previous threat to rain “fire and fury” on North Korea and warning that the US military is “locked and loaded” to respond to Kim Jong Un’s provocations, Trump set up a test of wills with his unpredictable adversary.

Now, with his nation’s most powerful nuclear detonation Sunday and a string of missile launches, including one over Japan, Kim has effectively called the President’s bluff, escalating a dangerous foreign policy crisis.

Trump’s options to prevent North Korea twinning a nuclear device with an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the US are narrowing, and with each North Korean move, the time available to act is running out.

Every time that the Trump administration has hiked pressure and rhetoric against Pyongyang, through sanctions, condemnations and military maneuvers and exercises, Kim has upped the ante in its showdown with Trump.

In this, the Trump administration is not alone – nothing the previous three US administrations did to halt North Korea’s nuclear program worked either – with the isolated state on an arc to building a deliverable nuclear device.

Personal element

02:34 - Source: CNN
Hayden: US has acted with more sound and fury

Those who support Trump’s bombastic rhetoric say that since sanctions and pressure and diplomacy have in the past failed to slow North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, the President’s more approach is worth a try.

But Trump has injected a particularly personal note into his confrontation with Kim, putting his own personal authority and credibility on the line in a way that worries some national security experts.

Former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” Sunday that he believed that Trump’s national security team had framed a coherent policy on North Korea, especially in its effort to impress upon the Chinese the urgent need to use more of its influence to change North Korea’s behavior.

But he said that the approach had sometimes been “inartfully executed” and warned that the President should avoid being drawn in to a mano-a-mano showdown with Kim in the wake of the nuclear test.

“I fear two things. The stray electron, the tweet that just goes out a 5 a.m. and unintentionally creates effects that make this go to a place where we don’t want it to go,” Hayden said. “The other o