In remarks made aboard the USS Ronald Reagan on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said that North Korea should not doubt the U.S. military’s commitment to defending its allies against the use of any weapons, be they conventional or nuclear. At the U.S. Yokosuka naval base in Tokyo, Pence continued to warn the Kim Jong Un regime against further provocations.
“The United States of America will always seek peace,” he said. “But under President Trump, the shield stands guard and the sword stands ready.”
The vice president continued: “Those who would challenge our resolve or readiness should know, we will defeat any attack and meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective American response.”
And so the cycle continues. One day, it appears that the U.S. is moving towards a pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang, the next day it seems as thought Trump wants nothing more than to start de-escalating tensions. For anyone truly concerned that we could be on the brink of nuclear war, it’s been a stressful couple of weeks.
But of course, this uncertainty was not brought about by Donald Trump; it’s been lurking in the background of global affairs since the ascension of Kim Jong Un at least. And in reality, it’s been a growing threat since the days of the Clinton administration.
In 1994, President Clinton negotiated a nuclear disarmament deal with Kim Jong Il, the current madman’s late father. As part of that deal, the U.S. agreed to pump $4 billion in aid to Pyongyang over a 10-year period. In exchange, the North Koreans agreed to halt their pursuit of nuclear weapons. An early version of the deal Obama made with Iran, in other words.
To virtually no one’s surprise, the deal disintegrated rapidly. Four years later, North Korea was launching missile tests in violation of international sanctions. And in 2006, the regime conducted their first nuclear test.
In January, we learned that outgoing President Obama told incoming President Trump that North Korea was the gravest threat facing the United States. Would you have ever guessed that? It certainly wasn’t clear from Obama’s rhetoric. Listening to him, one would assume there were any number of bigger threats facing the U.S., including gun shows, melting ice, and police officers.
Now it’s up to Trump to do what Clinton and Obama failed to do. He is addresssing the problem instead of running away from it. And yes, the potential consequences are frightening.
But the threat didn’t materialize out of nowhere. It was there all along.
We just finally have a president who isn’t afraid of facing it.