Russia and China: Let the Hand Wringing Begin

The last day has seen a great deal of pontification, criticism, whining, and sucking air through clenched teeth over US President, Donald Trump’s address to the UN General Assembly.

In a plainly-worded address, President Trump warned the world body about the dangers posed by Iran and North Korea, and pushed the UN and America’s allies to share more of the global security burden. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. President Trump went on to caution on North Korea that the, “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Sadly, this direct reference to war with North Korea caused a fire storm of criticism, shock and horror from the US enemies in the General Assembly and the President’s political opponents at home that have not gotten over electoral defeat. Perhaps Trump’s words could have been chosen differently for such polite and diplomatic surroundings, but they weren’t. Now the world has been put on notice that the US has its spine back, and that it has had enough from Kim Jong-un, a brutal dictator that routinely threatens his neighbors with war and destruction. For twenty-five years, the US and its allies pursued a course in the UN of diplomatic chatter, and sanctions, hoping that they could deter North Korea and its Kim family from obtaining nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles to threaten the world. The talking and sanctions have failed.

Now, North Korea can threaten the US with nuclear weapons geared to bust American cities as Pyongyang destroys its local adversaries South Korea and Japan. The Kim Jong-un regime and its predecessors have received help from China and Russia to get there. The transporter erector vehicles for North Korea’s Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) are of Chinese origin. The barge the Pyongyang tests its Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) from is of Russian design. There is evidence that the Russians and China have helped North Korea with warheads design and rocket engines. Both China and Russia routinely shelter North Korea from being held to account, just as they do with Iran. China has huge human rights violations and is trying to annex the South China Sea and Russia has seized the Crimea and invaded Ukraine. Two US Democratic Presidencies sat back, and gave the North Koreans the time that they needed to perfect their strategic weapon systems. Within just two years, North Korea will be able to reliably threaten the North American continent and Europe with nuclear destruction. The US is left with three strategic options: deterrence, defense and attack. None are great options, but as it stands, the US cannot expect any help from the likes of China, Russia and the UN. The status quo is untenable. Based on its actions and words to date, North Korea is bent on war with the South, Japan, and the US.

So, with the path already set by others before him, President Trump has made a clear and unambiguous statement about US national security interests and the consequences of threatening those interests using force. The next step for the US given its three remaining strategic options is the forward deployment of battlefield or theater-level nuclear weapons either in allied countries, on US Pacific territories, or on US warships at sea. Then people in Moscow, Beijing, Pyongyang and at the esteemed UN Security Council have some real choices to make. Let the hand wringing begin.

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