Freezing The Melting Pot: Trump’s North Korea

In response to a targeted threat from North Korea, the White House has come forth saying they are prepared for an attack from the rogue Republic. The statement follows North Korea’s motion last Sunday to attack a U.S. aircraft carrier currently located in the Western Pacific. According to Rodong Sinmun, a North Korean newspaper, the attack would be “an actual example to show our military’s force.” Up until now, threats between North Korea and the United States have been somewhat generalized, never zeroing in on an exact geographical location. That was until these recent events.

This week has marked what can be perhaps labelled the “Rising Action,” on route to a “Climax”, in the narrative being developed between the United States and North Korea. Over the past few months, North Korea and its missile testing have been on everyone’s radar. Pyongyang has been circled on everyone’s maps, accompanied by little dashed lines to those who interfere with the highly irritable country. However, one of the most unsettling elements of this affair is not that it is new, but instead old. The politics of North Korea have been well known for years now. Stories have been in the newspapers, even satirical films made on the subject. However, the world stands on their heels with a legitimate fear of the unknown. All things considered, one might say the new catalyst that’s been introduced exacerbating this situation could be the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

Typically, North Korean culture and politics have been governed by one man only: Kim Jong-un. Since the passing of his father back in December of 2011, Kim Jong-un has led the Workers’ Party of Korea and continued the state’s history of communist rule. Over the past six years, capitalist leaders and democracies around the globe have kept an eye on the state from a distance. While many leaders have hesitated to poke the sleeping bear, the U.S. presidential election brought with it a new leader that’s not afraid to do so.

Since entering the White House, rhetoric concerning North Korea and its stabilization has appeared to be at the end of almost every mouse click and keystroke in Trump’s oval office. Over the past one hundred days, the president has taken to his personal twitter account a number of times to address ongoing issues with North Korea. Just two weeks ago, Trump posted a series of tweets on the issue.  He tweeted, “I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!” He followed that up just four minutes later saying, “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”

The use of Donald Trump’s personal twitter account has been a long-disputed issue. While some proponents believe it’s an effective method of spreading the word and reaching a large audience, a brief history of his tweets have proven to be anything but presidential. In the past, Trump’s tweets have singled out individuals on a smaller scale, making reference to topics such as Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live or Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes. However, while Trump has traded a business career for a political one, it would appear old habits die hard.

Trump’s continued use of twitter to make uncensored, yet on-record commentary has become a major issue for the administration and the citizens both within and around the United States. Over the course of his campaign, this method of communication was witty and unruly, attracting a considerable amount of media attention. In 140 characters, Trump was able to compose a provocative tweet on any international issue with little to no consequence. But as Commander-in-Chief, that is far from the case.

Quoted in an article from the CBC, Joel Wit, a senior fellow at the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS said, “The Trump administration is jabbing much harder, talking more about the possibility of military action and just, in general, trying to ramp up the pressure… Then, of course, you get a North Korea response. So I think the combination of these two things has really heightened the temperature.” As we’ve seen in recent days, it undeniably has. His senseless bantering on social media, combined with North Korea’s detaining of a third U.S. citizen has left the two countries at odds, but more importantly in a hostile state.

North Korean politician Choe Ryong-hae was quoted in a recent analysis on the issue by CBC’s Asia correspondent Saša Petricic. Following a recent parade in North Korea showcasing their military accomplishments, to a captive audience Ryong-hae said, “If the United States wages reckless provocation against us our revolutionary power will instantly counter with annihilating strike, and we will respond to full-out war with full-out way and to nuclear war with our style of nuclear strike warfare.”

The issue at hand is not necessarily what the definitive action Trump takes will look like, but rather what the boiling point for North Korea is. A little over two weeks ago Trump’s attack on Syria in response to Bashar al Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians shocked the world. While he had touched on his relationship with Assad and holding him accountable, the strike was a definitive action. However, what we are being presented here with North Korea is an entirely different creature. For once there is an enemy out there with their crosshairs firmly set on the United States. Trump possesses the gift of the gab, whether it’s a blessing or a curse is up to you to decide. What we can all agree on though is that what he’s saying is not being taken well.

At this point, it’s undeniable that any actual attack on behalf of the United States or North Korea would be a shock. A decision of that magnitude this early into his presidency would be unexpected, to say the least. Still, this has been a rather unpredictable presidency so far. Actions being taken appear to have democracy and good diplomacy on the forefront. However, the developing dialogue taking place in the background needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. While one side is testing their missiles and actively talking about attacking, the other is letting their leader say whatever is on his mind and not holding him accountable. To de-escalate this situation, a few egos will have to be put in check. The question remains as to who will act first.

Wyatt Lang