Sign of Hope

13 February 2017

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

North Korea Tests Missile, White House Reacts Prudently

The temperament of President Donald Trump has been one of the biggest concerns among his supporters as well as his detractors. Clearly, he is a thin-skinned fellow who has shown himself to be a man who relies on instinct rather than intellect. So, the fear that he would over-react in foreign policy crises has been palpable. This week-end, North Korea tested a missile it claims can carry a nuke. Mr. Trump responded in a way that gives everyone some hope that the worst won't happen on his watch, at least not yet.

On January 2, 2017, Mr. Trump tweeted, "North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen." Like most policy statements constrained by a 140-character limit, this is open to some interpretation and therefore misinterpretation. It could mean that, after careful assessment of the intelligence gathered pertaining to the North Korean missile program based on physics, engineering and the North's capacities, Pyongyang is going down a dead-end path and so one needn't worry. Or it could simply mean that the US will find a way to stop the development of such a weapon. The latter boast sounds more in character.

The North Korean government is not noted as a reservoir of peaceful reason and reflection. It is a barbarous regime that remains in power by sitting on bayonets. A nuclear weapon capable of hitting the US would be a major prop to its fortunes. Therefore, it is easy to deduce that the latest test was part of that program. That it was proclaimed a success suggests that the program is moving ahead. Thus, the stage was set for some kind of Cuban Missile Crisis face-off on the Korean peninsula.

Rather than go eyeball-to-eyeball with the Kim dynasty, the Trump administration has responded well given the few practical options available. Reuters noted, "The responses under consideration -- which range from additional sanctions to U.S. shows of force to beefed-up missile defense, according to one administration official -- do not seem to differ significantly so far from the North Korea playbook followed by Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama." President Obama may have been many things, but hot-headed in foreign policy matters was not among his failings.

The reason for Mr. Trump's measured response is simple. The wire service explained, "More dramatic responses to North Korea's missile tests would be direct military action or negotiations. But neither appears to be on the table -- the first because it would risk regional war, the latter because it would be seen as rewarding Pyongyang for bad behavior. And neither would offer certain success."

When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the North Korea move was unacceptable, Mr. Trump was standing beside him in Florida, and Mr. Trump followed that with, "I just want everybody to understand, and fully know, that the United States of America is behind Japan, our great ally, 100 percent." Mr. Trump's congenital detractors may mock this as cowardice, using Japan as a human shield, but the statement was in marked contrast to the silly statement issued after Iran made a similar test of a missile. The Iranians were "officially put on notice," whatever that might mean.

The White House and the Japanese government have summoned the UN Security Council to discuss the test, and tighter sanctions may follow. Mr. Trump has noted correctly that the key to keeping Pyongyang in line is to get Beijing to do it. He has stirred up ill-will with China over trade and had initially questioned the One-China policy that allows Taipei and Beijing to co-exist as rival Chinese governments. Perhaps a start can be made at the UNSC in being more of a partner to China in exchange for help with North Korea.

The one thing Mr. Trump has not done and should is to remind the world that the US has already fought for South Korean independence and will do so again if need be. Standing behind Japan 100% is wise; so is standing behind, or even better with, South Korea.

© Copyright 2017 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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