Something is up in the Trump White House on North Korea

During the 2016 campaign Donald Trump often observed with mocking amazement that the Obama administration would telegraph its military, diplomatic or negotiating intentions days, weeks, even months in advance. “We’re going into Mosul in four months. We’re going into Mosul in one month….”


Since taking office President Trump hasn’t revealed his military and diplomatic plans. His most explicit comments came during a February news conference:

“I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do in North Korea. And I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do with Iran. You know why? Because they shouldn’t know.”

Last week nearly five dozen Tomahawk​ missiles were well on their way from U.S. destroyers in the Mediterranean to targets on a Syrian airfield before Trump leaned over to inform his Mar-a-Lago dinner guest, China’s President Xi Jinping.

One of their other conversation topics was North Korea’s determination to develop nuclear weapons and ICBMs to deliver them, Kim Jung-un says, to the United States. Trump deems this a threat to national security and vows to prevent it, with or without China’s help. Both men agreed on the North Korean nuclear threat. As for any joint action, we don’t know.

Accumulating evidence, however, indicates something is up on North Korea. It could be real. It could be mere pressure, although after the sudden missile raid on Syria last week, diplomats would have to plan as if it’s real.

After visiting South Korea last month, Secy. of State Rex Tillerson pronounced the last 20 years of allied policy toward North Korea a failure. He said the era of “strategic patience” was over, adding all options are on the table, including military action. Secy. of Defense James Mattis delivered similar messages and Vice President Mike Pence is due there later this month.


When Pyongyang launched its next missile test, Tillerson issued an unusual 23-word response: ““North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”

Over the weekend the Pentagon ordered the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group to waters off the Korean Peninsula. Press reports said China was massing 150,000 troops on its border with North Korea, reports denied by a Beijing spokeswoman.

On Sunday H.R. McMaster said Trump had tasked the National Security Council to develop a full range of options to halt North Korea’s nuclear threat to the U.S. and regional allies.

Then, we checked President Trump’s public schedule for today. He’s got his daily intelligence briefing, followed by meetings with Homeland Security Secy. John Kelly, and Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council, and also McMaster.

And then, wait. What this? “In the evening, the President will have a working dinner with senior military leaders.”

Chances are they’re not gaming the NFL Draft.

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