As far as foreign policy is concerned, the country on the Trump administration’s lips this week has been North Korea. Following yet another ballistic missile test from the insane dictator Kim Jong-un, the Trump team has stepped up their rhetoric against the regime, and the president himself had something to say about it on Twitter.
“North Korea is behaving very badly,” Trump said Friday. “They have been ‘playing’ the United States for years. China has done little to help!”
Trump isn’t the only one singing a harsh tune when it comes to Pyongyang. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Asia this week, where he spoke to South Korean and Japanese leaders about moving beyond the Obama doctrine of “strategic patience.” Tillerson said that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to the U.S.’s response to Kim Jong-un’s saber-rattling recklessness.
In remarks that perked the ears of foreign policy veterans, Tillerson said that the U.S. would even consider nuclearizing North Korea’s neighbors if the White House felt it necessary. These remarks are in line with comments Trump made on the campaign trail, where he suggested ways in which the U.S. could cut back on its international security obligations.
“If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level we believe requires action, that option is on the table,” Tillerson said of U.S. military engagement.
Tillerson did say, however, that nuclearization of the peninsula and U.S. strikes against the North Korean regime remained options of last resort under the Trump administration. Both Tillerson and Trump have expressed hope that Chinese leaders will finally wake up to the nuclear threat looming in their backyard, but China still sees a unified Korea as a much greater threat than Kim Jong-un.
If diplomatic efforts are going to lead the way to a de-nuclearized North Korea, then China’s cooperation will be an essential part of that deal’s success. If they’re not on board – if they are still willing to prop up the regime economically, preventing international sanctions from working – then we will have no choice but to ramp up aggression. It’s that, or we wait until this lunatic finally connects with a nuclear strike against Seoul.
The THAAD missile defense system we’re installing in South Korea is a step in the right direction, but the danger of this mad king goes far beyond that conflict. We may not have the luxury of waiting too much longer before we do something about it.