When President Donald Trump gave the order last Thursday night to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat airfield in Syria, it was supposed to be a strong condemnation of the recent horrifying mass murders of men, women, and children by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad using weaponized chemicals.
But this wasn’t just a statement for al-Assad. President Trump was also sending a message to Assad’s North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un. What was the message? At the risk of oversimplifying, he told these two despots and all the other rogue leaders in the world who are willing to murder their own citizens that there’s a new sheriff in town. And when this sheriff draws a line, you don’t cross it without consequences. Period.
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.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2017
Because Jong-un’s father, Kim Jong II was hidden from public view for more than a month in 2003 during the conflict with Iraq, there are those who speculated that his son might do the same here. But it appears Jong-un might just have a little more bravado than his father. Bravado in a coward is one thing. Bravado in someone who’s clearly mentally unstable is terrifying.
Like Syria, North Korea has had little concern for retribution from anyone. It has been very similar with al-Hassad. He’s managed to slaughter more than 200,000 of his own people, and he’s still alive to tell about it. While Obama was President, both Jong-un and al-Hassad were busy doing a stomp-dance on international law. They even flaunted it. Both Syria and North Korea have believed for years that the world’s leaders were too weak to punish them.
Well, those days are over. The U.S. just drew blood on Syria, and Trump and his new cabinet are getting serious. North Korea can’t really be sure which way the U.S. will go now that Trump’s in charge.
President Trump has been saying that if China continues to do nothing to deter North Korea’s nuclear program, then the U.S. will just act alone. After the airstrikes Thursday, that’s a lot easier to believe. Trump is beginning to position himself in North Korea in ways former President Barack Obama never did. First, he has already put the military option back on the table.
“We are working diplomatically, including with those that we might be able to enlist in this effort to get North Korea under control,” said Secretary of Defense James Mattis. “But right now it appears to be going in a very reckless manner. That’s got to be stopped.”
It’s true that Jong-un seems to be more dangerous than his father. When a senior U.S. official told reporters last week that the “clock has now run out” on Pyongyang, Jong-un fired a ballistic missile.
Of course, the world’s greatest ally in the fight to keep North Korea in check is China.
Oddly enough, the Chinese President Xi Jinping was in the United States staying with the President at Mar-a-Lago when the Syrian situation happened. President Trump may even have had to excuse himself from his Chinese company to go order the attack on the Syrian air base. China likely saw this as a slam as it was a confirmation of America’s willingness to deal with things on our own.
Decades ago, Americans were known for taking action… especially when no one else would. It seems those days may have returned. Trump has revived the American spirit and it’s only confirmed by Tillerson’s comment on North Korea.
“The United States has spoken enough about North Korea,” Tillerson said in a statement. “We have no further comment.”