Tom Goodenough Tom Goodenough

Trump talks tough on North Korea. Does he mean it?

Donald Trump once said that he wanted to share a hamburger with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un. Now that he’s President, fast food diplomacy looks to be off the menu. Instead, the tough talk has started and Trump has used an interview with the FT today to warn that America will act against North Korea unless China clamps down on the regime in Pyongyang. He said:

‘Well, if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you’

That Trump has singled out North Korea is no accident, nor is it much of a surprise. In the weeks after the election, the outgoing Obama administration warned Trump’s team that it considered the threat posed by Kim Jong Un to be America’s top national security priority. In many ways, Trump has sought to distance himself from his predecessors. But in talking tough against North Korea, ‘The Donald’ is making an exception. After all, Obama once told Pyongyang: ‘We could destroy you’ (even if his failure to act over his ‘red line’ in Syria undoubtedly undermined this threat); and George W. Bush famously said North Korea was part of the ‘axis of evil’. More than a decade on from that remark, little has actually changed. In fact, things have arguably got worse, with the country stepping up its campaign of missile tests. So the key question now is: will Trump be the one who actually walks the walk?

At the very least, Trump certainly seems determined to pile the pressure on North Korea. Since taking office, America’s loudest President has repeatedly issued warnings to the country: he’s called the current situation a ‘mess’ and said, just a few weeks ago, that North Korea’s nuclear threat had entered a ‘new-phase’. Meanwhile, his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted that ‘the policy of strategic patience’ was over.

This sense of urgency has led to a review of what to do about North Korea being rushed through in time for this week’s summit in Florida with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

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