Donald Trump’s Three Mistakes on North Korea

Henri Féron

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s January 1st speech at a Worker’s Party Central Committee meeting put the final nail in the coffin of President Trump’s “maximum pressure and engagement” policy. Kim rescinded his two-year moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests, promised the demonstration of a “new strategic weapon” in the “near future,” and called for “foil[ing] the enemies’ sanctions and blockade by dint of self-reliance.” Kim stressed that denuclearization was not for sale, saying that it would “never” happen until “the U.S. rolls back its hostile policy towards the DPRK and lasting and durable peace-keeping mechanism is built.”

Trump failed to resolve the security crisis due to three key mistakes: on sanctions, on inter-Korean relations, and on peace. He is not the only one having made these mistakes, and this is not to devalue some of the successes he’s had, like the two-year moratorium. Yet the United States and its allies still face today a hostile nuclear power with bombs ten times the strength of those dropped on Hiroshima and with missiles that have the range to strike anywhere on the U.S. mainland, even if North Korea has yet to demonstrate it can reliably do so. All in all, though, the threat likely became greater, as Trump’s failure to clinch a binding agreement left North Korea free rein to continue building bombs and missiles in the meanwhile.     

The mistake of relying on sanctions

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