Allegations of Russian cyberattacks targeting U.S. elections systems. An unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Syria. Fast-paced automation eliminating U.S. manufacturing careers. The list could extend into a short novel: Trump and the incoming Congress have their hands full with myriad international and domestic crises. The latest issue to rear its head on the Trump radar is perhaps among the most pressing – the threat of nuclear North Korea.
While the small Asian nation already possesses between 15 and 20 nuclear weapons, they are working around the clock to make them smaller and to drastically enhance the missile systems designed to deliver them. In a nationally televised New Years Day speech, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced that the North Korean military was close to testing its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which would presumably be powerful and accurate enough to carry nuclear weapons to U.S. shores. Kim indicated that the ultimate aim is “to cope against the vicious threats for nuclear war by the Imperialists," making a clear jab at the U.S. and its allies.
Foreign policy experts suggest that this is a very real threat. "It's a very real and growing threat," explained Bruce Klinger of the Heritage Foundation. "North Korea is a multi-spectrum threat to the US, its allies and international peace and security."
Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies furthers the point. "This is the worst regime in the world trying to acquire the worst weapons in the world and the means to reach the US with them." He proceeded to call North Korean nuclear capabilities a “direct threat to American security.”
With this pressing danger, President-elect Trump and his transition team have already issued a response, albeit in a non-traditional fashion on Twitter. "North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen!" Trump tweeted last night. Trump then launched a blatant attack on the Chinese government for their role in the North Korean nuclear proliferation. "China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won't help with North Korea. Nice!"
This, of course, is the norm for Trump, as he has attacked the Chinese for the trade imbalance between them and the U.S. in the past. The difference here, however, is that we are now dealing with nuclear weapons.
A leading Chinese official responded immediately, arguing that Trump was misinformed as to how China was handling the North Korean situation. "China's efforts in resolving the North Korea nuclear issue have been obvious to all. Our contribution has been widely recognized by the international community. As the host of the six-nation talks, our efforts and achievements have been clear to all."
An expert on East Asian proliferation claimed that Trump’s tweets are asinine and benign. "I think North Korea will probably test the KN-08 (intercontinental ballistic missile) this year, no matter what Trump tweets."
As for how Trump would combat this threat, his top aides are declining to provide specifics. Kellyanne Conway said this morning that Trump will wait for his inauguration to deliver a formal approach, however she said that sanctions were a likely option. "But we do know that there are sanctions that are possible. They have not always worked. I think China would have to have a significant role here as well. But he's putting North Korea on notice through this tweet and other statements that this won't happen."
What do you think about this potential threat? What do you make of Trump’s response?