Telling 64-year-old Chinese President Xi Jinping that “one way or another” the North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile will end, 71-year-old President Donald Trump left no doubt that the crisis may not end diplomatically. Trump’s U.N. Amb. Nikki Haley told the Security Council July 6 that the U.S. is prepared to use force if “we must” but preferred to resolve the problem through diplomacy. Trump pointed out that China’s trading in the last years with North Korea had increased 40%, not something that shows China has applied pressure on Pyongyang to cease-and-desist with regard to its nuclear and ballistic missile program. While there’s more economic pressure China could apply to North Korea, it’s unlikely dictator Kim Jong-un would give up his nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Kim sees a workable nuke as the only way to protect North Korea against foreign invasion.
South Korea’s 64-year-old President Moon Jae-in and Japan’s 62-year-old President Shinzo Abe both agreed that Kim’s July 4 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile [ICBM] test was a “nuclear provocation” but sought to work with North Korea regime whenever possible. Trump told Asian leaders that ridding North Korea of ballistic missiles and nukes “may take longer than I’d like, it may take longer than you’d like. But there will be success in the end one way or the other,” Trump told Chinese President Xi. When Trump says the standoff would end “one way or the other,” he’s referring to possible military actions. Stationing 30,000 U.S. troops in the Demilitarized Zone, the U.S. has the resources to stave off a North Korean invasion but not without potential damage of Seoul, only 35 miles from the DMZ. Kim doesn’t understand that nukes won’t stop Trump from intervening.
War was thought unthinkable by generations of U.S. presidents. Trump no longer has the same luxury of “strategic patience” to protect U.S. national security. Kim has made nuclear threats against the U.S. in recent months, something that can’t be ignored by Trump.. “Something has to be done,” Trump told Xi, reminding the Chinese leader that the U.S. under his watch let Kim develops a nuclear-armed ICBM. While mainly talking trade with Xi at the G20, specifically how the U.S. can correct a $350 billion trade deficit with China, Trump knows the North Korean threat takes priority over economics. Hoping that Xi would take the Korean threat more seriously, Trump put China on notice that he’s done his part to deal with the problem diplomatically. If Kim continues to launch ballistic missiles or test new nuclear bombs, Trump told Asian leaders he would take the next step.
Unlike the days of the Korean War [June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953], China’s not one-year removed from the Maoist Revolution. Committing troops to North Korea, Mao staved off what he saw was as Yankee imperialism. While distrust remains between the U.S. and China, China doesn’t have the territorial interests or resources to defend North Korea. Russia’s worldwide Communist Revolution was also progressing during the Korean War, preventing Soviet Premier Nikkia Khrushchev from letting North Korea fall. Neither China nor Russia would defend Kim if the U.S. attacks, primarily because Kim’s hermit regime no longer follows any conventional norms. While China worries about a flood of North Korean refugees should Kim be toppled, they also know that the U.S. has no imperialistic ambitions in the Korean Peninsula. Unification of Korea is not on Trump’s radar.
Economic presser hasn’t worked in North Korea to discourage their nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions. Five U.N. resolutions have occurred since 2006 condemning North Korea’s nuke program, producing no concrete results. “Global action is required to stop a global threat,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, asking the U.N. to apply more pressure. No U.N. resolutions or sanctions have stopped Kim or his father before him Kim Jong-ill from testing nukes and ballistic missiles. North Korea paid Iran and Pakistan to help it develop its nuclear program, now knocking on the door of thermonuclear bombs and ICBMs. When former President George W. Bush labeled Iraq, Iraq and North Korean the Axis of Evil Jan. 30, 2002 in his State of the Union speech, he wasn’t too far off. North Korea and Iran continues to present the U.S. with the most pressing national security threats.
Calling out China for not doing enough to stop North Korea’s nuke and ballistic missile program looks an hour-late-and-dollar short. Whatever window existed to stop the North Korea’s nuke ambitions, it appears to have closed. Calling for more global action, the U.S. won’t find too many takers, including allies Japan and South Korea. Risks of war on the Korean Peninsula outweigh whatever draconic steps the U.S. might take. Looking at China and Russia, both would prefer the status quo, something the U.S. can no longer afford. If either China or Russia were threatened with nuclear attack, perhaps they’d feel differently. Neither Russian nor China would defend North Korea in the event of a U.S. attack. While trading partners, both have too much to lose starting a protracted war. Trump put the world on notice at the G20 in Hamburg, Germany that the days of “strategic patience” are over.