Day 82: Donald Trump’s North Korea Problem

Trump clearly wants to take some action, but no options are particularly appealing.

Immediately after the election, Barack Obama spoke to Donald Trump at the White House and advised him that a nuclear North Korea would pose the biggest threat to the United States and his presidency.

Trump has seemingly understood that, though what his plans are for the secretive nation are unknown.

North Korea, while largely isolationist, relies on China for trade. China is concerned about a unified Korea with South Korea gaining influence and power. China also likes to have a North Korea bogeyman — as does Russia — against he U.S., though the idea of a nuclear North Korea is terrifying to everyone. Furthermore, if the Kim dynasty ends with Jong-un, millions of refugees will flock en mass to China.

Trump has floated the idea of putting nuclear weapons in South Korea to act as a deterrent to their northern neighbors. He has clearly spoken with China about economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure. He has mobilized warships to the region.

Ultimately, Trump believes the problem is solvable, though there are few options. The three most logical options are:

  1. Keep the status quo, with an unstable North Korean leader executing his own people and continuing to threat militaristic action against the U.S. and its allies.
  2. The U.S. and its allies put boots on the ground leading to many lost American lives and repeating the 1950s.
  3. The U.S. and its allies drop bombs — up to and including nuclear — and risk millions of innocent casualties and nuclear retaliation.

The first option is the most realistic scenario and is fraught with the least political risk. It’s mostly reactionary, and if North Korea does something, the U.S. will measure a response.

The second option is the least likely considering American history in the region, the lack of American appetite for another drawn out war and the guaranteed mass casualties that would result.

The third option seems to be the one being weighed by Trump and is certainly the riskiest. If the U.S. is able to knock out North Korea’s nuclear facilities, the risk for large scale attacks is severely reduced. However, that assumes a successful attack, as well as the U.S. knowing where all of the North Koreans’ weapons are located. This strategy would likely take approval from Congress plus some or all of the U.N., the Chinese, the Russians, the Japanese, the South Koreans and many more.

North Korea has shown zero willingness to come to the table at any point in the last half century. They have let their own people starve over international intervention.

The fact that potential solutions surrounding North Korea’s nuclear proliferation will be analyzed and decided by Donald Trump is a terrifying prospect.

The fact that there are no great options is even scarier.

82 days in, 1380 to go

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