April 11, 2017

Solving the Problem of North Korea

The strike on Syria was a warning shot, but China still must step in and help rein in Kim and his nukes.

Last week, many heads of state were able to clearly see what a U.S. response to heinous acts of violence looks like. We are of course talking about the missile strike against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, which was carried out in response to Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons. The message this sent to Assad — and perhaps many other rogue leaders in the world — is pretty clear. Under President Donald Trump, the United States is not going to mess around.

While much of the world is focused on the threat posed by the Assad regime along with radical Islamists who continue to carry out terrorist attacks in the Middle East and other parts of the world, there’s another rogue regime that deserves attention — North Korea. Given recent missile tests carried out under Kim Jong Un and the revelation that his regime is continuing to move forward with its nuclear capability, the Asia-Pacific region of the world is presented with frightening challenges in the coming years.

At stake is the security of our allies such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, among others. There are also tens of thousands of U.S. military personnel who are deployed to the region as a deterrent to such rogue governments in the region. With dictators like Kim Jong Un — whom John McCain recently derided as the “crazy fat kid” — deterrence may only last so long.

With diplomacy, timing can be everything. Last Thursday, the missile strikes against Syria were carried out while Trump was having dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Having some leverage before discussing foreign affairs is something any U.S. president wants to have and there is every reason to believe that Trump did just that.

China would rather not deal with actions coming from North Korea, but given that North Korea is its neighbor and to some extent its client state (a la Syria and Russia), China doesn’t want more U.S. involvement in the region than is already the case. Thus, China is in a position to step up its game. If the U.S were to carry out a preemptive strike against North Korea, China would be faced with the United States military operating next door and would also be faced with its own refugee crisis coming from North Korea. Neither situation is good for China and the potential for increased tensions between the U.S. and China is not something that either Trump or Xi desires.

For the past several years, it seems that the Chinese have not been too worried about North Korea, despite its progress toward achieving full nuclear capability. The Chinese for the last eight years were also unconcerned about U.S. involvement with North Korea because China spent that time expanding and strengthening its military capability, while Barack Obama decimated the U.S. military.

Now, China has every reason to be concerned — though those concerns may be more about President Trump. As Hot Air’s Jazz Shaw puts it, “After eight years of Obama foreign policy which basically boiled down to speak softly and never even pick up the stick, the rest of the world is now keenly aware that the new administration isn’t all peace, love and unicorns.” Actions speak much louder than words, and Trump’s decision to quickly respond to Syria should have sent a clear message to other world leaders.

Trump’s new national security advisor and former general H.R. McMaster recently declared that the U.S. is developing a “full range of options” to deal with the North Korea threat. He also announced that the entire Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is moving to waters off the Korean peninsula. When he was asked why Trump ordered the carrier group to deploy to the region, McMaster replied, “Well, it’s prudent to do it, isn’t it?”

That said, the U.S. shouldn’t be the lone military force to reign in North Korea. China has the ability to step in and do its part as well. In his remarks, McMaster added, “This is a rogue regime that is now nuclear-capable. President Xi and President Trump agree that is unacceptable. What must happen is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. So, the president has asked us to be prepared to give him a full range of options to remove that threat to the American people and to our allies and partners in that region.”

We are living in uncertain times and, under the Trump administration, it is relatively clear that the United States is not going to tolerate brutal regimes that threaten security in the world. And while there are certainly other issues with China that Trump wants to address, such as trade and currency manipulation, security in the region must come first. Perhaps we are about to witness what the mind behind the “Art of the Deal” can do with another country that is very well known for the “Art of War.”

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