Donald Trump climbed aboard Air Force One this morning bound for Europe and the G-20 conference, but his Twitter account focused on the Korean crisis. Until now, Trump had showered China with praise for its efforts to pressure the Kim regime in North Korea into abandoning its nuclear and missile weapons program. Yesterday, however, the US and South Korea jointly responded to Pyongyang’s latest missile test with a demonstration of our own missile technology:
The US and South Korea have held a ballistic missile drill, after North Korea tested a long-range missile experts believe may reach Alaska.
Self-restraint was “all that separated armistice and war” and could be changed at any time, the two allies said.
It would be a “grave mistake” for the North to think otherwise, they said.
This morning, Trump followed it up with a statement that appears to write off any more effort to work with China on the issue:
Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40% in the first quarter. So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 5, 2017
Just a day earlier, Trump had held out some hope that China would crack down on its client regime:
….and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2017
The Washington Post confirmed the trade numbers (a 37.4% increase, to be precise), even with China’s embargo on North Korean coal. China insists that it’s complying with the UN trade sanctions, but if so, then these trade figures demonstrate that there is considerable room for tightening the leash.
Russia and China have other ideas on solving the impasse. They want a “double suspension” on military activity on both sides of the 38th Parallel:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called for “global action” to counter North Korea. But in a joint statement issued late Tuesday, Beijing and Moscow called for a “double suspension” that would see Pyongyang freeze its weapon program and the U.S. and South Korea stop joint military exercises.
Instead, the maneuvers went ahead in what U.S. Pacific Command called an “ironclad” show of resolve, with the U.S. Army and the South Korea military fired missiles off the eastern coast of South Korea. …
“Self-restraint, which is a choice, is all that separates armistice and war,” Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, and Gen Lee Sun-jin, chairman of the South’s joint chiefs of staff, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, North Korea’s leader Kim threatened more tests and taunted Trump, calling the ICBM test an Independence Day gift, according to North Korean state media.
An expert in international relations told the Post that the double-suspension approach would be a “non-starter,” and it’s not tough to figure out why. The US reached an agreement with Kim Jong-il to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons development during the Clinton administration in exchange for assistance with “peaceful” nuclear-power development. How did that work out for us? And what exactly did China and Russia do to keep the Kim regime from secretly violating that agreement? The idea sounds like the kind of “double-secret probation” referenced in the film Animal House, and with just as much potential effect.
The launch of the ICBM changes the stakes all the way around. Unless North Korea dismantles its missile and nuclear-weapons program, we can’t afford to stand down, as our own national security is now at risk. If Moscow and Beijing want to avoid a war, they’d better do something a little more positive to eliminate the threat than just tell us to stand down and trust the lunatic who keeps pushing the boundaries in Pyongyang.