In a speech near the DMZ on Monday, Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump administration is turning the page on the policies of the Obama administration when it comes to North Korea. Rather than continuing to slowly put economic pressure on the Kim Jong Un regime, Pence said that the U.S. would soon take decisive action to prevent North Korea from expanding their nuclear weapons arsenal.
Pence said that President Trump remained optimistic about China’s willingness to pull Pyongyang into line.
“But,” he said, “the era of strategic patience is over. President Trump has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change. We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable.”
Pence vowed that the U.S. would secure the peninsula through “peaceable means” or, if need be, “by whatever means are necessary.”
While we certainly applaud Trump’s willingness to apply pressure to China in order to resolve this crisis, we’re increasingly uneasy with the war-heavy rhetoric coming out of Washington these days. With every new speech from this administration, President Trump seems to get further and further away from the foreign policy arguments he made on the campaign trail.
Put plainly, is it worth re-examining our commitment to the defense of Seoul? That’s not to say that South Korea is a meaningless ally; it’s not even to say definitively that we should pull our troops out of the country and simply wait and see what happens. It’s merely to suggest that we take a long, hard look at it. Not in the abstract, but tangibly. Point by point, what does the U.S. gain from this automatic, “If Kim Jong Un attacks South Korea, we will annihilate him” policy?
There is, of course, great strategic advantage to the U.S. in a unified, America-allied Korea. As Kim Jong Un (and China) are well aware. So you can say, well, we have to stop Kim because he’s constantly threatening to blow up New York City, but then you have to ask: Would he be making those threats if he didn’t fear a U.S. invasion? To what extent are we creating our own enemies?
Peace through strength? Absolutely. But – as Trump himself emphasized relentlessly last year – we have to be a little smarter about when and where we exert that strength.
Trump as Neocon is still vastly preferable to Obama or Hillary, but we hope that Trump the Nationalist has not vanished entirely.