The North Korean regime has been swift in understanding the new weakness in U.S. foreign policy.
After a single ballistic missile test launch in 2017, the North conducted no more ballistic missile tests for the balance of Trump’s term. (It fired a few projectiles, but nothing on the order of magnitude of a ballistic missile).
When President Trump told North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, –who had said that he could push the button and attack the U.S. — that “I have a bigger button than you do,” the North wised up and conducted no more ballistic tests.
Now, a few weeks into the Biden presidency the North is at it again and has just launched a new ballistic missile test. One suspects that the test had less to do with the missile’s capability than with probing the strength of Biden’s response. The missile may have passed its test, but Biden flunked his.
Lamely, he only said we would consult with our allies and respond in the due course — the same kind of mealy-mouthed response that North Korea was used to under Obama and before.
Biden is barely paying attention to North Korea and perhaps that was the motivation for the missile test. North Korea seems always conscious of its profile in the world and when people forget it exists, it reminds them with a nuclear explosion or a missile test. Hopefully, Biden will learn from experience and adopt a tougher and more consistent line with North Korea.
Trump’s diplomacy could only go so far until the prospect loomed that he would soon be out of office, heartening terrorists in Iran and dictators in North Korea alike. But he we on the verge of persuading the North to come in from the cold and become an economic dynamo like the South, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore have done.
Fortunately, however, Trump kept sanctions in place during his diplomacy so, when Kim did not take him up on the invitation, there was no backsliding. But Trump’s progress indicates that it would be worthwhile for Biden to pick up the same theme in his negotiations with the North.
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