by Amna El Tawil
Presidents of the United States have been dealing with headaches for decades “thanks to” North Korea. It looks like the incoming president, Donald J. Trump, will also spend sleepless nights over North Korean threats.
Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, announced on Sunday that his country was about to finalize preparations to carry out the first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States, too. The New York Times reported: “Although North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests in the last decade and more than 20 ballistic missile tests in 2016 alone, and although it habitually threatens to attack the United States with nuclear weapons, the country has never flight-tested an intercontinental ballistic missile or ICBM.
In his annual New Year’s Day speech, which was broadcast on the North’s state-run KCTV on Sunday, Mr. Kim spoke proudly of the strides he said his country had made in its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. He said North Korea would continue to bolster its weapons programs as long as the United States remained hostile and continued its joint military exercises with South Korea.”
After Jong-un’s announcement, Donald Trump took to Twitter to make it clear that North Korean’s threats won’t happen.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2017
Trump’s confidence drew skepticism from many North Korea security analysts, who noted that the issue has long confounded the international community and that Trump hasn’t detailed a strategy for dealing with the North.
John Delury, an associate professor of Chinese studies at Seoul’s Yonsei University, said: “It’s just a statement of resolve without any indication of how he’s going to prevent it. And, of course, it’s all about the how.”
Duyeon Kim, a Seoul-based researcher at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, explained: “I seriously hope Trump does not mean he will stop the North with force. Trump needs a real North Korea policy and strategy, and Twitter is not the forum through which to create one.”
Further commentary: It seems like the world is used to constant threats coming from North Korea. Nothing happened so far, but they still have to be taken seriously. Mr. Trump has already made it clear that he plans to tackle this problem, but numerous experts are worried about a single tweet assuming he doesn’t have a plan whatsoever. But, this isn’t a sit-com with people who’re too stupid to even be real. Just because all the details about the plan isn’t revealed, it doesn’t mean it’s nonexistent. In fact, there are many things Trump can do to end these threats. End of commentary
One way is going through China, but it wouldn’t be easy. About an hour after tweeting that there’s no way North Korea will pull the trigger, Donald Trump also blasted China claiming the country doesn’t want to help with the North Korean issue.
China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea. Nice!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2017
The Wall Street Journal reported: “Addressing questions about Mr. Trump’s tweets during a regular press briefing on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said that China’s efforts to solve the North Korean nuclear issue “are clear for all to see.” Mr. Geng pointed to China’s convening of six-nation talks aimed at convincing North Korea to give up its nuclear program, as well as its support for United Nations sanctions against its ally. He added that any problems in the economic relationship between the U.S. and China should be “properly addressed through dialogue and consultation,” but avoided commenting on whether Mr. Trump’s use of Twitter helped or hindered diplomatic discussions. “We don’t pay attention to the features of foreign leaders’ behavior. We focus more on their policies,” he said.”
A practical way of dealing with the North Korean issue would be repairing the relationship with China, rather than aggravating it. Chris Hill, who led U.S. negotiations on North Korea’s nuclear program for President George W. Bush, said: “If there is a solution, that solution will be with China. The president-elect should be careful about picking fights with China over trade or the one China policy because he will need a lot of his capital for North Korea.”
Jeffrey Lewis, director of the US-based East Asia Nonproliferation Program, explained that Mr. Trump could push China to implement existing sanctions more harshly but there’s no evidence that sanctions have any impact on North Korea’s decision-making. He said: “It allows the US and our allies to look busy while the North develops an ICBM.”
Further commentary: While tightening sanctions does seem practical and could, definitely, work with some other nation, I really don’t see Kim Jong-un as someone who can be practically bought off and go down that easily. President-elect will have to be wiser when it comes to this. End of commentary.
Donald Trump could also increase deterrence activities along with allies South Korea and Japan. This means expanding live-fire joint exercises with South Korea and Japan, which would require North Korea to devote resources to monitoring and respond to military activities on its borders that it can’t tell are only drills or invasion preparations. Also, it implies moving ahead and expanding plans to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile shield that President Obama promised South Korea, where 30,000 U.S. troops are stationed.
Delury explains that one potential solution would be sitting down and having a constructive conversation with Kim Jong-un. He adds that although some people would object this solution, he believes that Donald Trump is capable of pulling it off. He referred to Trump’s “what the hell is wrong with speaking” and said: “I do think it’s the way forward. It was a fleeting moment of Trumpian brilliance. He has the right instincts. You could imagine Trump in Pyongyang in a way you couldn’t imagine Hillary Clinton.”
Further commentary: Dealing with North Korea and its leader Kim Jong-un will be one of the toughest tasks of Trump administration. There are many options for him to try out and it won’t be easy. But, if Trump pulls it off he’ll make a greater progress than his predecessors ever could. End of commentary