For all the bleating about President Trump’s tweetstorms on North Korea, his strategy seems to be working.
After decades of the U.S. watching North Korea build a nuclear arsenal for its homeland and a missile supply network for unsavory characters around the world, the president has decided to force the issue.
The latest example came last week when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he had a nuclear button on his desk that could set in process missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. The president hit back in a tweet:
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,’” Trump tweeted. “Will someone from his depleted and food-starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
Media rushed to declare Trump a warmonger and a nutjob, but North Korea took some other steps. After the U.S. announced it would put off joint military maneuvers with South Korea – an annual source of tension on the peninsula – the two Koreas announced plans for their first formal dialogue in more than two years.
A border hotline between the two has been re-established. The countries have made tentative moves to work together on the Winter Olympics, which begin next month in South Korea.
The United Nations voted a new round of sanctions against North Korea, and China has clamped down on North Korea trade with an announcement Friday it would cap oil supplies to the north and ban imports of its steel and other goods.
That decision may have been helped along by South Korea detaining a tanker after surveillance appeared to show the Chinese ship transferring 600 tons of oil to a North Korean ship in violation of United Nations sanctions.
And on Saturday, President Trump said he would be willing to talk to Kim after telling Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last year in a tweet that Tillerson was wasting time “trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump’s nickname for Kim.
Nikki Haley, Trump’s UN ambassador, walked back those comments some on Sunday, saying this was “no turnaround” in policy., “What he has basically said was yes, there could be a time when we talk to North Korea, but a lot of things have to happen before that actually takes place. They have to stop testing. They have to be willing to talk about banning their nuclear weapons.”
The North Koreans doubtless have their own thinking on this. Fox News says the abrupt softening of relations “may be a tactic to divide Seoul and Washington and weaken international pressure and sanctions on Pyongyang.”
It also may be a way for all sides to assure calm for the Olympics.
But the president has a point, too, when he said the pressure his administration has applied is making a difference.
“With all of the failed ‘experts’ weighing in, does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North,” Trump tweeted. “Fools, but talks are a good thing.”