NEW YORK, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. President Donald Trump's tweets about North Korea's Kim Jong Un are not helpful as tensions escalate on the peninsula, a former Obama administration official said Wednesday.
Avril Haines, the first woman deputy national security advisor at the White House, said the strong rhetoric that has been traded between Trump and Kim increases the risk of confrontation.
"I think the current scenario is one in which sort of the tweets and rhetorical back-and-forth have created perhaps an instability that could lead to a provocation that's unintended," Haines said at Columbia University's School for International and Public Affairs.
If the tweeting and incendiary rhetoric could subside, that would be a "major improvement to the problem of North Korea," she added.
In August, Trump had said in warning North Korea would be "met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before," as North Korea conducted multiple tests of ballistic missiles.
More recently, while giving a speech in Missouri to promote a Republican tax bill, Trump described Kim as a "sick puppy" and "little rocket man," a nickname Trump has previously used to refer to the North Korean leader.
Haines, who also worked as CIA deputy director, told UPI inflammatory speech is "dangerous and unhelpful under the circumstances."
Much of the danger lies in the relationship Kim has with the North Korean population, and with the North Korean leader's need to prove his power.
The rhetoric and tweeting "creates a kind of a dynamic in which Kim Jong Un feels as if his honor is being attacked," Haines said, at which point Kim has to "prove something [by] pushing back against these statements to show that he is not in any way fearful of the United States or President Trump."
"My guess is that that's the reason for the provocations, as opposed to some uncertainty that the United States will attack them under the circumstances," she added.
Kim's greatest insecurity stems from being a young leader.
"It strikes me that probably the closer wolf at the door [for Kim] is really the need to show his population and to show his leadership," Haines said.
The presence of an inexperienced leader could also be driving the push for weapons.
"In many respects if you think about it Kim has very little incentive to give up his nuclear weapons program because in a sense that would presumably lead to regime change," Haines said, adding the weapons have become a requirement to maintain authority.
Defectors and sources in the country, including those in the military, have repeatedly told South Korea media Kim is regarded as an unpopular leader, following the execution of uncle-in-law Jang Song Taek in 2013.
Jang was a reformer who looked to both China, and South Korea, as models of economic development.
Kim's provocations may not go ignored, Haines said.
"The problem is that as you engage in provocations you may provoke. And that's not just [to the United States]. Each of these missile tests is also provocative to our allies in the region who are at far more risk."
Some trends, however, are working in the United States' favor.
China is going further in implementing recent United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions, Haines said, a trend that may be stemming from "tremendous irritation" from President Xi with respect to Kim Jong Un.
"China sees that having a nuclear North Korea is not in their interest," Haines said.
Working with China, as well as South Korea, is also important for future plans.
While "phased negotiations" are important steps to denuclearization, contingency planning with South Korea and China for a possible North Korea collapse is key.
"I think that is the only responsible thing to do," Haines said, pointing out North Koreans may eventually take matters into their own hands and turn against the regime.
"In the event of a collapse, you would have a world crisis in your hands of pretty epic proportions," Haines said.
The former advisor added it is important to discuss with China there is a "way forward," although Beijing may be unable to publicly discuss the question of a North Korea collapse.
"The most effective thing is for leaders to engage each other," Haines said, describing a feature of U.S.-China relations that hasn't changed since Nixon visited China in 1972.
Trump tweeted Wednesday he spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and that the "situation will be handled" and more sanctions imposed.
Just spoke to President XI JINPING of China concerning the provocative actions of North Korea. Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2017
Trump has previously praised Xi and the two recently met in Beijing during Trump's 12-day visit to Asia.