McCain said Trump's comments about striking North Korea with "fire and fury" were not helpful in the current spiral of tensions.
That comparison is saying something about Donald Trump's own state of mind.
Speaking before dinner this week at this private golf club in New Jersey, Trump warned North Korea that the country would "face fire and fury, the like of which the world has never seen before". Such words coming on the 72nd anniversary of the US dropping two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki — killing over 200,000 people — are grotesque.
Do American political leaders have no shame about the past criminal deeds of their country? Speaking about ordering genocide as if it's like ordering a hors d'oeuvre.
The alarm is well founded. Given numerous threats already from the US that it is prepared to use pre-emptive military force against North Korea, the words from Trump implying a catastrophic attack worse than the horror of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are indeed criminally reckless.
North Korea quickly responded that it was ready to carry out a pre-emptive attack on the US airbase on the Pacific island of Guam, which would "envelope it in fire". Pyongyang uses this kind of melodramatic rhetoric all the time, regularly threatening to turn the US and its allies in South Korea and Japan into "a sea of fire".
But now, even more alarmingly, we have the American Commander-in-Chief indulging in a treacherous spiral of warmongering threats, where one misstep, one misunderstanding, could launch a nuclear war in the region.
However, Russia and China bear a measure of responsibility for the latest flare-up. Both countries supported US calls last weekend to pile on more economic sanctions against North Korea, when they voted unanimously at the Security Council. Those sanctions were imposed in response to North Korea's defiance of previous resolutions banning the testing of ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads. Last month, North Korea launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which many analysts believe are capable of hitting the US mainland.
But by piling on more sanctions against North Korea, the move has inevitably inflamed tensions.
Pyongyang denounced the latest round of sanctions as an outrageous violation of its sovereignty and its right to develop military self-defenses. After all, it points out, the US has thousands of nuclear weapons capable of hitting North Korea. Washington has also installed this year a new missile system, the THAAD, in South Korea, which gives it a first strike advantage.
Given the array of American offensive military forces, the repeated verbal threats of "all options on the table" and now the latest ratcheting up of sanctions, is it any wonder North Korea perceives an existential danger? Then we have Trump making shockingly grotesque comments about the prospect of ordering an annihilation right on the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, while he is about to have dinner with his wife.
Russia and China made a huge mistake in backing more US-led sanctions against North Korea last weekend. That move has only escalated tensions and has emboldened the Americans in their incorrigibly aggressive mentality.
Moscow and Beijing, more than anyone else, should know that sanctions are a counterproductive policy. They are a weapon of war-making and a baleful substitute for diplomacy.
Russia and China are right to insist on immediate all-party talks for the region, involving the two Koreas. But slapping sanctions on one side is wrong, especially given the ongoing war threats issued by the US. Only days ago, the US flew nuclear-capable B-1 bombers from Guam over the Korean Peninsula. Why should North Korea, the region and the world for that matter accept such American aggression with impunity?
Russia and China have a crucial role to play in order to make the US come to its senses and scale back from a catastrophic war. But given the American hubris and self-righteousness to wage criminal wars, and given the twittery state of mind of its Commander-in-Chief, the task of making the US behave like a normal law-abiding nation is foreboding.
It's not North Korea that needs to be sanctioned. It is the world's biggest rogue state, the USA, that should be sanctioned and prosecuted many times over. Until it reserves the right to unilaterally threaten and attack any nation, including with the use of dropping of atomic bombs on civilian centers, the world will always be in grave peril. Joining US calls for sanctions on North Korea is like feeding a monster.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.