According to Trump..... Iran? "Failing at every level"
Donald Trump is storming into the new year in exceptionally aggressive fashion, picking fresh fights on Twitter with such speed that his aides, international partners and the public are struggling to catch up.
Pakistan? Liars and swindlers who enable terrorists, the president tweeted just hours after the world celebrated the arrival of a new year.
The Palestinians? No more US aid until they get their act together and agree to peace talks with Israel.
Iran? "Failing at every level," Trump tweeted as he declared full-throated US support for protesters there opposing the government.
And North Korea? Leader Kim Jong Un may have a figurative "nuclear button" on his desk, but Trump's is "much bigger," the president quipped, flippantly tossing off a threat to launch the world's first nuclear strike in more than 70 years.
To Trump's supporters, and even to his critics, it may seem business as usual. After all, in his inaugural year Trump relentlessly pushed presidential boundaries with provocative declarations that often weren't fulfilled.
Yet for foreign nations trying anxiously to interpret the US leader, such statements can have real-world consequences. Pakistan is livid at Trump's remarks, summoning the US ambassador in Islamabad to explain the disparagement of a key US security partner. North Korea experts worry Trump's taunting of Pyongyang could lead the two countries to stumble into war.
"This is not a game," former Vice President Joe Biden said in an NBC News interview. "The president has to come to better understand that words matter from a president."
"I think the president is much, much too cavalier - and it's dangerous," Biden said.
The White House has played down the furore.
Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders insisted Trump wasn't "taunting" Kim Jong Un, merely "standing up for the people of this country." What would be dangerous, Sanders said, would be for Trump to stay silent.
"This is a president who is not going to cower down and is not going to be weak," she said.
Trump's rapid-fire spate of new pronouncements on foreign policy came as the president, fresh off his holiday vacation, made clear the second year of his presidency would be no less of a rollercoaster than the first.
Much of official Washington gasped as Trump, responding to a new book filled with criticism and insider gossip about his administration, issued a statement blasting his former chief strategist Steve Bannon as "out of his mind."
Senior administration officials said they're directing government staff to consider the tweets to be "just tweets" and assume that no new policies are announced unless told otherwise through formal channels.