President Trump’s announcement Thursday that he will meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is a stunning diplomatic breakthrough – one that paradoxically was made possible with tough talk and tough action against the nuclear-armed Communist regime.
The key question now is whether North Korea is genuinely willing to negotiate or if this is just another one of its attempts to sucker its opponents.
From the earliest days of the Trump administration, it was clear the president and his top aides were unwilling to sit idly by as North Korea developed hydrogen bombs and the ability to deliver them to the continental United States.
Gone was the Obama-era policy of “strategic patience” that amounted to doing nothing. President Trump’s shift and its associated pressure on North Korea’s key benefactor, China, marked a fundamental if unheralded change in the focus of U.S. foreign policy in Asia.
Despite endless mainstream media reports about “chaos” in the administration, all of the national security apparatus began working in unison to make progress in dealing with North Korea – a stark difference from internal disputes over foreign policy that marked the Obama and George W. Bush administrations.
Under President Trump:
· The Pentagon increased the presence of U.S. military forces in the Pacific, especially after North Korean nuclear and missile tests. It also saw through plans to provide Japan and South Korea with sophisticated new missile-defense systems.
· The Treasury Department enforced increasingly stringent sanctions on North Korea.
· President Trump himself goaded China to get tougher on North Korea.
· Vice President Mike Pence spotlighted the intense repression of the North Korean dictatorship.
· Rex Tillerson’s State Department put a full-court press on countries around the world to cut back ties with Pyongyang and send home North Korean expatriate workers whose wages benefit the regime almost exclusively.
· At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley echoed President Trump in warning North Korea and the world of the consequences of a North Korean attack on America or our allies.
These tough actions and words appear to have brought North Korea to the negotiating table without its usual demand for concessions even to talk.