President Donald Trump is escalating his rhetoric and threats toward North Korea and refusing to negotiate until it dismantles its missile and nuclear program despite warnings from China and Russia, among others, that this is a wrong-headed approach and could lead to a devastating and unnecessary war.
“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump said in an interview with Reuters.
Trump also sent Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to the U.N. today to demand that much tougher sanctions be put on North Korea, including economic sanctions, which could include an oil embargo, a global ban on its state airline and a blockade of its cargo ships.
“Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences,” Tillerson said in his first appearance at the U.N.
North Korea has already been under U.N. sanctions since 2006, and those have been made tougher after past missile tests. However, so far the North Koreans have not shown any evidence they are caving in.
To the contrary, North Korea has ramped up its rhetoric and built up its military forces, while running an unrelenting propaganda program at home to prepare its citizens for an American-led invasion and a resulting war.
Trump and Tillerson have called on China to take an active role in getting North Korea to shut down its missile and nuclear programs. In his U.N. remarks,
Tillerson has said in the past that China must stop acting as North Korea’s banker; and threatened to punish Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang
Tillerson’s tough talk against China is in contrast to Trump’s latest comments. In his Reuters interview, Trump praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for his assistance in trying to bring Pyongyang into line with the world community’s wishes.
Since Trump met with Xi Jinping at his Florida resort earlier this month the American President has completely reversed his attitude toward China. Where before Trump said China was a currency manipulator, he now says they are not. Where before he spoke to Taiwan’s president angering China, Trump now is avoiding her calls
He is now praising China for its efforts to deal with North Korea. “I believe he (Xi Jinping) is trying very hard,” Trump told Reuters. “He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well.”
Trump admitted ultimately it may not be possible for China to rein in North Korea.
At the U.N. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a speech to the Security Council said: “the key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side.”
Wang Yi insists dialogue and negotiations are “the only way out.” He said it is time for the U.S. and North Korea to stop arguing over who must take the first step toward peace. Contrary to Trump’s position, China is calling for talks first. “The use of force,” added Wang, “will not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters.”
The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Gennady Gatilov, chimed in at the U.N. that any use of force would be “completely unacceptable.”
He condemned Trump”s combative response to North Korea, which “coupled with reckless muscle-flexing has led to a situation where the whole world seriously is now wondering whether there’s going to be a war or not. One ill thought out or misinterpreted step could lead to the most frightening nd lamentable consequences.”
The Russian minister said that the joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises and the arrival of a U.S. aircraft carrier group off the Korean peninsula have made North Korea feel threatened and more likely to act irresponsibly.
China and Russia are also opposed to plans by the U.S. to deploy a new anti-missile defense system in South Korea, which Gatilov called “a destabilizing effort.”Wang said it is damaging North Korea’s trust in the U.S.
Trump and Tillerson are both hard-nosed businessmen used to getting their way and neither has any diplomatic experience, and that shows in how this crisis is being managed.
Unlike Obama, who understood North Korea loves being the center of attention, during his term he refused to be provoked by their threats.
Trump is like a bully in a schoolyard who takes everything a smaller but louder bully says seriously – and then escalates the situation, rather than finding ways to tamp it down.
With Trump’s job performance rating at a historic low and his inability to get his domestic programs through Congress, Trump is turning to foreign affairs as a way to deflect his failures and rally popular support by threatening military action.
The problem is in the nuclear age, provoking North Korea’s Kim Jong-un can have consequences for the entire world that go beyond what is acceptable in a civilized ed society.
Trump may have a point that North Korea is a danger, but his lack of diplomacy and haphazard handling of the situation so far only seems to be making things much worse. The North Korean dictator is dangerous, but so is Trump.