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Nuclear Crises on Korean Peninsula

The ongoing North Korean nuclear program creates a threat to the established world order.

Since becoming the Supreme Leader of North Korea five years ago, Kim Jong-un has continued to work towards his father’s goal of North Korea having the ability to launch a nuclear strike with a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States. As time marches forward North Korea has been taking incremental steps towards this goal and now boasts a Hydrogen bomb as a part of its arsenal.

The North Korean nuclear program has been likened to the Cuban Missile Crisis of almost 45 years ago. The crisis, in which John F. Kennedy confronted the buildup of nuclear launch capabilities in Cuba, was the major foreign policy test of the Kennedy administration. North Korea may be the major foreign policy crisis of the Trump administration, and the initial stages are playing out before Donald Trump completes his fabled first 100 days in office.

A piece in the New York Times, makes the comparison between the two situations:

“What is playing out, said Robert Litwak of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who tracks this potentially deadly interplay, is “the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion.” But the slow-motion part appears to be speeding up, as President Trump and his aides have made it clear that the United States will no longer tolerate the incremental advances that have moved Mr. Kim so close to his goals.”

Change of Course

The Trump administration is charting a much different course in its handling of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions from the actions of President Obama. The Trump administration has signaled that it will be more proactive in dealing with North Korea:

“Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson has said repeatedly that “our policy of strategic patience has ended,” hardening the American position as Mr. Kim makes steady progress toward two primary goals: shrinking a nuclear weapon to a size that can fit atop a long-range missile, and developing a hydrogen bomb, with up to a thousand times the power of the Hiroshima-style weapons he has built so far.”

A Korea with long-range nuclear capabilities is a threat to every country on the planet. The Trump administration recognizes this, as did the Obama administration before them. A key message in Donald Trump’s win was that he would Make America Great Again. To many Americans, a great America is not threatened with nuclear annihilation by any rogue state.

The Trump administration has already taken steps to show that they will take military action against  North Korea if the nuclear program continues. According to Charles Krauthammer, as quoted in National Review, the Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) attack against ISIS was launched with a secondary purpose in mind:

“I think we are trying to send a message particularly to the North Koreans, perhaps also the Iranians. They are developing nukes, the nukes are buried, they are intended to be in places that are highly reinforced, and this is a way of saying, “We can get there.” And if you do it in an isolated place in Afghanistan against public enemy No. 1 in the world, ISIS, it’s a way to demonstrate the efficacy of the bomb.”

Nuclear Development

After 25 years of North Korea working to develop a nuclear program, they are coming frighteningly close to achieving their goal.

The very liberal Mother Jones posted an interesting theory about North Korean’s missile program while Donald Trump was still President-elect. According to this Mother Jones piece from January:

“Kim Jong Un appears less interested in building leverage for negotiations than in bolstering his internal political clout—and after North Korea’s continued broken promises on nuclear testing, it’s not clear that the United States and its allies could even offer him more enticements.”

The Trump administration does not appear likely to deal with North Korea’s nuclear program by offering small little enticements. Those enticements may have slowed down Kim Jong-un’s nuclear ambitions, but they didn’t stop them.

Given Krauthammer’s reasonable interpretation of the motivations behind the use of the MOAB against ISIS, it appears that the Trump administration has changed course in dealing with North Korea. The Trump administration will meet force with force and has illustrated their willingness to do so.

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