According to a new story in the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration has conveyed to President-elect Donald Trump that North Korea should be “the top national security priority” for his incoming team. While President Obama has been decidedly low-key publicly when it comes to the tyrannical Kim Jong Un, administration sources say his policy of “strategic patience” is proving to be a failure.
Current and former administration officials now worry that the pace of North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, particularly its steady march toward the ability to mount a weapon on a ballistic missile, demands a more aggressive strategy.
“If we just sit back and continue to let [Kim Jong Un] evolve, we’re going to have someone with that capability, which is unacceptable,” retired Adm. Michael Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for President Barack Obama, said on Monday.
Right. One might also see it as “unacceptable” for the Obama administration to disregard a major national security crisis in the making so they could hand it off to the next president. Now Obama gets to sail off into the sunset on a record of scaling back conflict, leaving the results of his appeasement for someone else to deal with. Great job, Barry.
But it is what it is, and President Trump will have to confront it. Unfortunately, most experts say there are no easy answers to the problem. Our ability to deter North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is dependent on the amount of assistance we get from China. And if Trump accuses Beijing of currency manipulation, it’s going to be even harder to get their cooperation on North Korea. Even now, they aren’t helping much.
As long as China is propping them up, increasing economic sanctions on Pyongyang will amount to a symbolic measure and nothing more. That leaves military action on the table, but the risks there don’t need to be outlined in detail. Suffice to say, things have the potential to go really wrong.
Knowing Kim Jong Un, he’s probably going to try something early on in Trump’s presidency to see what the temperature is in the White House.
He won’t be the only one waiting to find out.