When the President and his staff were in Beijing, China back in November, Chinese officials reportedly attempted to block the military aide who was carrying the “Nuclear Football.” It didn’t go well for them, as a Secret Service agent tackled a Chinese Security officer to the ground.
Misunderstanding or Deliberate?
Protocol demands that the person carrying the briefcase stay close to the President at all times. But as the aides, doctor, and other US officials walked through the Great Hall where President Trump was meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, a Chinese security official blocked their way. That’s when the ruckus started.
According to Axios,
- A U.S. official hurried into the adjoining room and told Kelly what was happening. Kelly rushed over and told the U.S. officials to keep walking — “We’re moving in,” he said — and the Americans all started moving.
- Then there was a commotion. A Chinese security official grabbed Kelly, and Kelly shoved the man’s hand off of his body. Then a U.S. Secret Service agent grabbed the Chinese security official and tackled him to the ground.
The incident lasted a very short period of time. According to the account, the head of Chinese Security apologized for the misunderstanding after the incident. It is unclear whether they were just messing with the Americans and knew what was happening, or were unaware of the protocol. (Axios referred to that as “didn’t get the memo”).
At no time did the Chinese have the nuclear football in their posession, nor did they put their hands on it in any way. Everyone was told not to talk about the incident.
That Nuclear Football
The President’s Emergency Satchel, as it is officially known, is the world’s most dangerous handbag. But it is more about documenting the President’s identity rather than carrying around a briefcase with a big red button.
The Smithsonian reported,
Contrary to popular belief, the Football does not actually contain a big red button for launching a nuclear war. Its primary purpose is to confirm the president’s identity, and it allows him to communicate with the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon, which monitors worldwide nuclear threats and can order an instant response. The Football also provides the commander in chief with a simplified menu of nuclear strike options—allowing him to decide, for example, whether to destroy all of America’s enemies in one fell swoop or to limit himself to obliterating only Moscow or Pyongyang or Beijing.
Although its origins remain highly classified, the Football can be traced back to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.