It is becoming obvious that the first major foreign policy challenge facing the Trump administration is going to be North Korea. In his visit to the Far East, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
refused to allow our allies to make eye contact with him made it very clear in three different capitals that our patience with North Korea’s stunts was at an end and that we would not pay the DPRK for pretending to not pursue nuclear weapons. While Tillerson was in Seoul, war games were underway that simulated a decapitation strike at the North Korean regime.
The administration has warned China that Chinese companies may be sanctioned for trading with North Korea and the Justice Depart indicted some Chinese players in conjunction with the massive raid on Bangladesh’s treasury.
Two other cards have been played.
Yesterday, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley weighed in on the issue:
The US ambassador to the United Nations on Thursday said China can and must do more to force North Korea to halt its nuclear and missile programs.
Ambassador Nikki Haley said President Donald Trump would raise the issue next week at his first summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
And, amid reports that Pyongyang is preparing another banned nuclear test, Haley said Washington would not settle for holding another UN debate.
“I have no patience for it, and it is not helping anyone. And it’s not about me. This administration has no patience for it,” she said.
“Look, can we change the way North Korea thinks? No. They’re not going to cave. China can, and that’s the part we want to look at.
“I know China says they’re worried about North Korea. I know China wants to see North Korea stop with the testing. Prove it. Prove it.”
What Haley has done here is take one of the main tools from China’s toolbox of obstruction and obfuscation. What happens, time and again, is the UN Security Council debates something North Korea did and votes sanctions and then North Korea’s main trading partner, China, quietly ignores the sanctions.
Today it was the most awesome SecDef ever, James Mattis:
“This is a threat of both rhetoric and growing capability, and we will be working with the international community to address this,” he said. “We are working through the United Nations, we are working our allies, and we are working diplomatically including with those who we might be able to enlist in this effort to get North Korea under control.”
The reporter noted that Mattis, as head of U.S. Central Command in 2012, had said Iran was the main threat facing the United States. In responding, Mattis quickly pivoted to North Korea, which has rattled Washington with threats to attack the U.S. with nuclear missiles.
“Right now, it appears to be going in a very reckless manner in what its conduct portraying for the future and it’s got to be stopped,” he said.
This is not an off the cuff message, this is a message he intended to deliver.
Donald Trump meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping this weekend in the “Southern White House” and even though the administration is saying trade will be the issue you can bet North Korea is going to take up a lot of time.