February 16, 2018

Thanks To Trump, Strategic Patience With North Korea Has Finally Come To An End

CNN and other major news outlets hit a new low over their reporting on North Korea during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Headlines such as “Kim Jong Un's sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics” and “North Korea judged winner of diplomatic gold at Olympics” ran across various major news outlets. Kim Jong Un should be proud of his propaganda team for so easily manipulating the media and employing their help in normalizing his murderous regime.

Fortunately, the Trump administration recognizes North Korea’s show for what it is. President Trump and his national security team have been the most vocal critics of the regime on the world stage. Decisive action has come from this White House as America has finally begun to reassert itself to confront North Korea head-on. We must support the president and our military leaders as they ramp up pressure against the Kim regime.

The North Korea situation we find ourselves in is largely due to past U.S. leaders, particularly President Obama. The previous administration’s policy of “strategic patience” caused America to sit on the sidelines and hope Kim would curtail his own ambitions.

Kim is not the irrational maniacal ruler as some would try to convince us. Like other autocrats, he is an opportunist, and will capitalize on opportunities to advance his agenda whenever possible. America’s passivity in other parts of the world under the Obama administration — from Russian troops flooding into Crimea, chemical weapons being used in Syria, and Iran expanding its proxies across the Middle East — likely emboldened Kim, who correctly calculated that the Obama administration would similarly not take serious steps to halt his development of nuclear weapons.

By Kim’s logic, nuclear weapons are an ace-in-the-hole to extract major concessions from U.S. leaders while consolidating his power at home. To develop this deterrent, he has been more than willing to starve his own people, enforce slavery-like work conditions for dissenters, and execute political prisoners.

In a much-needed course correction, Trump has put the U.S. back on the offensive and is taking the necessary steps toward a more America-first approach to North Korea.

To start, extensive sanctions have been used to dry out North Korea’s funding sources. Vice President Mike Pence recently promised the U.S. would levy its “toughest and most aggressive” sanctions ever against Kim. “Together with Japan and our allies, let the world know this: We will continue to intensify our maximum-pressure campaign until North Korea takes concrete steps toward complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization,” Pence noted in a recent speech.

Building up South Korea’s military capabilities has also been a key centerpiece of this agenda. The president signed-off to install THAAD missile inceptors in South Korea as a response to Kim’s repeated belligerence. THAAD is the most advanced missile inceptor in the world and could save countless lives if the North ever does try to strike.

Military action is also being considered as an option. In a major shift in U.S. policy, Trump’s National Security Council, led by H.R. McMaster, has laid out the possibility of carrying out a limited strike, colloquially known as a “bloody nose” strike, if the situation continues to escalate.

An attack of this nature could target Kim’s missile launch facilities and other key infrastructure the regime uses for its nuclear program. Trump and McMaster recognize the reality that military action may be the only option to curtail Kim’s ambitions, which include conquering South Korea and a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from the region. Withdrawal of America soldiers would almost certainly lead to a full-scale invasion by the North and be a disaster for our interests in the region.

U.S. military forces are also being placed in key positions in the region. Three different models of bombers, B-52s, B-1Bs, and B-2s have been stationed at Anderson Air Force Base in Guam. This is only the second time these three sets of bombers have been stationed in the region together.

Joint aerial drills to enhance combat readiness have continued as scheduled, despite intense opposition from North Korea. American power was on full display as over 230 aircraft from the U.S. and South Korea practiced drills to retaliate against Kim’s aggression at a moment’s notice.

Most importantly, Trump isn’t afraid to call Kim’s regime for what it is — evil.

Words matter when dealing with tyrants. “No regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea,” noted Trump in his State of the Union Speech. “We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and to our allies.” Applause exploded throughout the congressional chamber as Trump told the story of Ji Seong-ho, who escaped the murderous regime on crutches and now resides in South Korea.

Unlike the mainstream media, Vice President Pence worked to highlight the inhumane nature of the North Korean regime during the Olympics. Pence met with North Korean dissenters and reiterated President Trump’s message that America can no longer sit by and wait as the Kim regime expands its nuclear power. Strategic patience failed. Now more than ever, decisive action is needed. Expect more from Trump and his team soon.

-- Alex Titus, Fellow at America First Policies

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