President Donald Trump’s North Korea strategy has been all over the place.
Early in Trump’s presidency, his top officials declared the Obama-era policy of “strategic patience” over, but they have since struggled to meaningfully define a policy of their own.
One day the State Department would unequivocally say that the US does not seek regime change in North Korea, and later the CIA director would come along and drop heavy hints that taking out Kim was their goal.
Until Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis laid out a comprehensive approach in a jointly-authored article, little coherent strategy could be found. Mattis and Tillerson’s approach could be summarized as “maximum pressure,” whereby they leverage diplomatic, economic, and military pressure to achieve a result.
Yet at the same time, Trump was threatening Pyongyang with “fire and fury unlike the world has ever seen.” That threat from Trump came just three months after he said he’d be “honored” to speak face-to-face with Kim Jong Un.
A South Korean may have put a point on the Trump’s swirling North Korea policy with a dig at the administration.
“We are very much confused,” Moon Jung In, a special policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae In, told ABC News on Sunday. “Therefore, we think that now the American government has moved from ‘strategic patience’ to ‘strategic confusion.'”
The policy adviser’s quip about Trump’s confused North Korea policy comes at a time when President Moon has reasserted South Korea’s leadership role in the Korean crisis, by requesting more US missile defences and reaffirming his sovereignty.
“Military action on the Korean peninsula can only be decided by South Korea and no one else can decide to take military action without the consent of South Korea,” said Moon in televised remarks, according to Reuters.
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