MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
How to deal with North Korea? That's a question that'll be front and center when the U.N. General Assembly meets in New York this week. President Trump will be there along with dozens of other world leaders. After the latest missile launch by North Korea last Friday, Trump told troops the U.S. and its allies will not be intimidated.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will defend our people, our nations and our civilization from all who dare to threaten our way of life. This includes the regime of North Korea, which has once again shown its utter contempt for its neighbors and for the entire world community.
KELLY: Well, today the U.S. carried out bombing drills with the South Korean military in a show of force over the Korean Peninsula. Let's step back for a minute now and consider a new NPR/Ipsos poll on North Korea. It finds a narrow majority of Americans do not trust the president to handle North Korea and its nuclear threat. NPR's Scott Horsley is here now to talk about that. Hey, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Mary Louise.
KELLY: Good morning. So let me lay out these numbers. The poll finds 51 percent of those surveyed say they do not trust President Trump when it comes to North Korea, and of those, 40 percent say they feel strongly about that. So what does this tell us?
HORSLEY: Those are net figures, Mary Louise. Among Republicans, a large majority do trust the president. Among Democrats, a large majority do not. With independents, it's a narrow majorities who say they do not trust the president. So some of this is just the sort of background partisan-polarization we often see on issues like this. But with North Korea specifically, this may also reflect some concern about Trump's more bellicose tweets - you know, locked and loaded, and fire and fury.
Lynn Siegfred (ph) is a registered Republican who lives outside Milwaukee, and she has some concerns about Trump when it comes to dealing with Pyongyang.
LYNN SIEGFRED: Just based on how he's reacted to other world situations, it's really hard to say what he'll do. I mean, he's a bit unpredictable. I think that's the only way you can look at it.
HORSLEY: And that's deliberate on Trump's part. He sees it as a positive to keep America's adversaries guessing about what he might do. But as our polls suggest, that unpredictability also makes a lot of Americans a little nervous.
KELLY: Now, the poll also focused on the question of the president's authority to order a nuclear strike and found a lot of confusion here.
HORSLEY: Yeah. Most Americans don't believe the U.S. should ever use nuclear weapons, but we asked, what would it take if the president decided to launch a nuclear strike? And Ipsos' Vice President Chris Jackson says most people got the answer wrong.
CHRIS JACKSON: The real answer is he just orders it. There's no other check to him ordering a nuclear attack. But the majority of Americans, a large majority of Americans, three-quarters, think that there is some sort of check - that either he has to get approval from Congress or he has to coordinate with the secretary of defense or he has to get confirmation from the Joint Chiefs.
HORSLEY: Now, Cokie Roberts addressed this in one of our Ask Cokie segments just last month, and we may need to...
KELLY: I remember that.
HORSLEY: ...Might need to replay that segment because just 24 percent of the people in our survey knew the president can order a nuclear strike on his own authority.
KELLY: Well, that is a stunning thing to consider, any one person is invested with that kind of power. Just very quickly, Scott, one other point the poll addressed, and that was what responsibility the U.S. bears for defending allies - Japan, South Korea. What'd it find?
HORSLEY: Yeah. A large majority, 74 percent, say the U.S. has an obligation to protect those allies in East Asia. And here there was very little partisan divide. We saw similar responses from Republicans, Democrats and independents.
KELLY: All right. Thank you Scott.
HORSLEY: You're welcome.
KELLY: NPR's Scott Horsley.
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