Do the Donald Trump Korea policy statements over the last week or so – along with statements by Secretary of State Tillerson and others in the government and military – indicate the United States might be planning a preemptive military strike against Kim Jong-un and North Korea? Such a strike might be designed to eliminate that country’s nuclear weapons, as well as Kim himself. There are some indications such a military action might be impending.
China and Donald Trump
Korea is uppermost on the agenda during the upcoming meeting in the United States between Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping. Certainly, it is for Trump, who implied in an interview that if China refused to cooperate in reining in North Korea’s drive to develop nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, the United States would act unilaterally.
“China will either decide to help us with North Korea or they won’t…. If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.”
It seems unlikely that the president of China will be amenable to any Trump strong-arm tactics. China will likely continue with its current policy of economically and militarily supporting the North Korean regime while, at the same time, ostensibly supporting sanctions against that regime for its nuclear weapons program. So what happens with the Trump-Korea situation if he doesn’t get what he wants from China?
War and President Trump
Korea and its nukes could provide Donald Trump with an effective way to distract the public from the ongoing scandals regarding his alleged connections – and those of his transition staff and administration – to Russia and Vladimir Putin. It would be difficult for the news media to focus on Russia rigging the 2016 election during a major Trump-Korea military crisis.
It’s an unfortunate truth that presidents who are doing poorly in the polls can garner new support – and even popularity – by finding somewhere in the world where they can involve the U.S. in a war. This idea might seem counterintuitive, but it’s based on the fact that Americans tend to rally round the flag during a crisis. The support for Bush following 9/11 is one example of this.
Other Indications of Imminent Action
The Trump Korea obsession extends to others in his administration as well. During a recent trip to Asia, the Associated Press notes Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested that the U.S. is running out of “strategic patience,” and that “all options are on the table.” This choice of words indicates that a military solution is being considered.
And in his January confirmation hearings in the Senate, Tillerson also said, “I think we have to be clear-eyed as to how far China will go and not get overly optimistic as to how far they’ll go…. If China is not going to comply with … U.N. sanctions, then it’s appropriate for us — for the United States — to consider actions to compel them to comply.”
In addition to this, on Tuesday an unnamed U.S. official said about North Korea and the upcoming meeting between Trump and China’s leader, “The clock has now run out, and all options are on the table for us.”
This again indicates that for Trump Korea might require military action.
Military Moves Supporting Trump
In recent weeks, Korea has also seen a significant introduction of new U.S. military hardware. As reported by CNN, the U.S. THAAD missile defense system designed to shoot down incoming missiles was suddenly deployed a few weeks ago to South Korea.
More than this, in a Tuesday interview, Admiral Samuel Locklear suggested that a military option was definitely on the table should the Trump-Korea confrontation require it.
“Certainly there are many elements of national and coalition power that range from diplomatic to economic, but at the base of all of those would be military power that the U.S. and its allies must continue to consider, particularly when there remains a significant threat such as from what we see in North Korea.”
So the Trump Korea plan may be pointing toward a military showdown, and it may come sooner rather than later. Just what the consequences of such a military adventure on the Korean peninsula would be are difficult to predict. It’s assumed by many that China would not endanger its trade with the U.S. by intervening militarily on behalf of its client North Korea, but assumptions and certainties are not the same things.
[Featured Image by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images]