The Dangers of North Korea

North Korea is getting closer to being able to attack the United States.

According to officials, the “medium range” intercontinental ballistic missile that North Korea launched on July 4 had a range of at least 5,000 miles, enough to reach Alaska. But it will apparently take several more years for the Pyongyang government to be able to equip their missile with a nuclear warhead.

So we haven’t quite reached Armageddon. The clock is still ticking. But one can’t help but wonder whether the Trump administration’s unfocused foreign policy is giving Kim Jong Un’s regime encouragement to forge ahead. Could our country’s withdrawal into the protective shell of “America First” be adding even more encouragement to our adversaries?

One would think that at a time when the United States could use more friends to deal with international issues, we would be doing everything we can to cultivate those relationships. But that’s not happening. Instead, we see repeated instances where our president insults some of our closest allies — continuing to insist to Mexico’s president that our southern neighbor will pay for a border wall; berating the prime minister of Australia in a get-to-know-you phone call; and demanding during Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to the White House that Germany “pay up” for its defense. And then there is the allies-be-damned approach to the Paris climate accord.

But what about our adversaries? How are we doing in our dealings with them? Many believe that China holds the key to North Korea’s behavior. Trump appears to agree. So he tweeted: “Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!” This came as a U.S. Navy destroyer sailed within 12 miles of a disputed island in the South China Sea — a questionable provocation of the very country being asked to work with us to punish North Korea.

Which begs the broader question: How can we urge others to engage in challenges important to our interests when we’ve snubbed our nose at issues important to them?

There are moves on Capitol Hill to increase sanctions on North Korea. But such past efforts don’t seem to have made much of a difference. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the Security Council that “the United States is prepared to use the full range of our capabilities to defend ourselves and our allies,” including with military force. But what does that mean? Are we really ready for the potential bloodbath in South Korea and Japan? Does that make sense?

So, here’s the problem: We are on the brink of very scary times, with government leadership (ours) that hasn’t shown a real appreciation for the enormity of the dangers we face. “Make America great again” was supposed to take our country back to the tranquil 1950s. But be careful what you wish for. The 1950s began with the Korean War.

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