“Where’s the war?” That’s how President Donald Trump defends his North Korea policy at campaign rallies even though he’s joined the list of U.S. presidents unable to stop the ever-growing nuclear threat from Kim Jong Un. That threat will transcend the November election, no matter who wins.
Despite Trump’s three meetings with Kim, the North Korean leader is expanding his arsenal. This month, Kim rolled out a shiny new, larger intercontinental ballistic missile during a nighttime parade in Pyongayng.
Arms experts said the missile could possibly fire multiple nuclear warheads at the United States. It serves as a reminder that despite Trump’s boasts, North Korea remains one of the biggest dangers to U.S. national security.
North Korea hasn’t been a major campaign issue, though it could surface in Thursday’s debate, which is supposed to include a national security segment. Democrat Joe Biden has blasted Trump’s chummy relationship with Kim, saying that, if elected, he would not meet the North Korean leader unless diplomats first draft a comprehensive agreement. Trump, meanwhile, predicts he can get a deal quickly if reelected, citing the dire conditions in North Korea.
Talk of a quick deal is probably just talk because there’s no sign of significant contacts between Washington and Pyongyang, says Bruce Klingner, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and former CIA Korea deputy chief. He and other North Korea watchers say they are bracing for Kim to showcase his military might again after the U.S. election.
“North Korea already has an ICBM that can range all over the United States, down to Florida and beyond, so the only reason to have an even larger missile is to be able to carry a larger payload,” Klingner said. He said it’s likely that North Korea will “do something strongly provocative early next year, regardless of who is elected president.”