The United States and North Korea are finally facing off this Easter weekend over Kim Jong Un’s insatiable appetite for courting danger. Here’s why President Trump is doing the right thing by taking a hard line.
While the rest of the world sits by, twiddling its collective thumbs and hoping that Kim comes to his senses, Trump has laid down a marker: test an underground nuclear device as you are threatening to do, and there will be consequences. The presence of a U.S. Navy strike force, armed with Tomahawk Cruise missiles, is the unspoken backup to Trump’s clear message.
The excuse for the North to conduct the test is morbidly fitting: Saturday is the 105th anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-Sung, the current Kim’s grandfather. What better reason to plunge the world into conflict than to thank granddad for all he did?
Trump has raised the stakes in this showdown, unlike Barack Obama, who tried to give Kim toothless avuncular advice, or Bill Clinton, who was hornswoggled into a bad nuclear arms deal with Kim’s father, in 1994. Clinton promised then that the pact would bring North Korea into the community of civilized nations. Right. Guess it all depends on what your definition of is, is.
China’s role in this showdown is crucial. It is now North Korea’s only patron, keeping its economy barely afloat and protecting it from United Nations sanctions and condemnations. So far, there have been at least 15 meaningless finger-wags from the House of Humor on the East River in Manhattan.
When China’s president, Xi Jinping visited Trump in Florida last week, the two seemed to have reached a gentleman’s agreement: China would do what it could to restrain the haircut challenged man-boy in Pyongyang. Trump, in return, would stay calm in the face of North Korean provocations and let China know what it planned to do.
Then, this week, something went awry. The China Daily, which reliably spouts Beijing’s latest thinking, began issuing ominous headlines, warning the U.S. against any military action. That, no doubt, was due to Trump’s missile launch against Syria, which showed the world that a new sheriff, named Donald, had come to Washington.
Like a smart aleck kid whose big brother is the captain of the wrestling team, Kim seems to believe he can act with impunity on the world playground. The Chinese, and before them, the Soviet Union, protected his granddad and his father for decades. The latest model Kim probably either doesn’t understand, or maybe doesn’t believe, that Trump is a new kind of American president.
After visiting Mar-a-Lago at the very moment the U.S. was sending its regards to Syria, President Xi certainly knows that is true. But can he convince the juvenile delinquent who is his political ward to back off in time to prevent disaster?
This Easter weekend, we should all pray extra hard for salvation and peace.