While eschewing new negotiations with North Korea, President Trump continues his campaign of brinksmanship that brings the world closer to nuclear war with a belligerent enemy that seems empowered by his ever harsher threats.
On the same day, the U.S. and South Korea launched their largest live drills ever feating tanks and helicopters – and one day after the U.N. passed stiff new economic sanctions on North Korea – President Trump declared that the pressure to stop the renegade regime’s nuclear program has just begun.
“But those sanctions are nothing compared to what ultimately will have to happen” he told reporters after a meeting with the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The resolution passed unanimously by the 15 member U.N. on Monday in the wake of North Korea’s biggest nuclear test yet would have been much tougher if China and Russia had not insisted on removing a full oil import sanction, a travel ban and sanctions on North Korea’s bombastic leader Kim Jong Un, which apparently did not sit well with Trump.
The current sanctions include limits on how North Korea can use banks to finance itself, but the U.S. has been critical of some Chinese banks it believes still work with that regime.
So this morning – although he needs China’s help to make the threats meaningful – Trump threatened additional sanctions against China if it does not do more to shut down banks and other Chinese firms that are aiding North Korea, reports The Wall Street Journal.
One way Trump can turn up the pressure is to act unilaterally instead of waiting to negotiate additional sanctions through the U.N.
The model may well be the sanctions that were used against Iran before President Obama negotiated a deal to tamp down their nuclear program, according to Anthony Ruggiero, a former deputy director of the U.S. Treasury Department and an expert in the use of targeted financial measures for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, according to Reuters.
“These U.N. resolutions only work when complimented by robust U.S. sanctions,” says Ruggiero, “which is exactly what happened with Iran.”
“The difference here is we have wide-ranging U.N. sanctions that go beyond what we had on Iran,” adds Ruggiero. “We also have U.S. sanctions that go beyond the U.N. sanctions.”
“The Trump administration has already used U.S. sanctions against China and Russia,” continues Ruggiero, “and Washington should do more like fines against Chinese banks and targeting additional firms and individuals facilitating sanctions evasion.”
Trump came to office with no international diplomatic experience and instead has brought a tough attitude and tough talk coupled with a refusal to negotiate with North Korea because of his view that has not worked in the past.
The problem is that North Korea just gets more angry, bombastic and threatening when cornered. Kim Jung Un seems to feed off Trump’s angry rhetoric, ramping up his own threats.
While Izumi Nakamitsu, the U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, insisted today that North Korea does not want a nuclear war because “that is just too catastrophic,” the sense is that the world has never been closer to a nuclear war, and Trump’s threats, and Kim Jon Un’s predictable responses, just keep moving both sides closer to the brink.
Trump is unpredictable and acts impulsively, often without fully consulting his State Department, security and military advisors, which makes him a real threat to peace.
The problem is that in the nuclear age, there may be winners, but there will be a lot of losers far beyond the borders of North Korea as clouds of radioactivity float over the planet in unpredictable ways.
There is also the concern that as the Russia investigation pulls a noose around Trump’s throat, and his domestic programs flounder in Congress, Trump may see a military option as the one sure way that he can be in control and be seen as a powerful president.
So you have leaders on both sides of this potential conflict who could act not in the interests of their country, and certainly not to protect the rest of the world, but to serve their own agendas, which would appear to be a potential recipe for disaster for everyone else.