North Korea’s rogue dictator’s brazen missile launch over Japan Monday was an attempt to “test the limits,” according to one local expert, who noted follow-up threats of more tests in “a meaningful prelude to containing Guam” has the Trump administration wrestling with an appropriate response.
“North Korea is really testing our patience,” said Adil Najam, the dean of Boston University’s Pardee School of Global Studies. “They’re trying to test the limits here and my own guess is that they’re coming close to the U.S. being pushed into a corner where they’ll have to do something. … This sort of behavior is very provoking, and the U.S. must be weighing its options very carefully right now and cannot just remain silent.”
But President Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis appeared at odds with each other yesterday over how to handle the threat posed by Kim Jong Un.
In a tweet, Trump declared “Talking is not the answer!” in what appeared to be a rejection of the idea of diplomatic negotiations with the North Korean regime. But hours later, Mattis, meeting yesterday with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo at the Pentagon, seemed to contradict Trump.
“We’re never out of diplomatic solutions,” Mattis told reporters.
But Trump also appeared to denounce previous U.S. efforts to try to appease North Korea in what an expert called a “helpful” step.
“The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years,” Trump tweeted.
That appeared to be a reference to a previous practice under former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush that saw the U.S. send $1.3 billion in food and fuel assistance to North Korea between 1995 and 2008 in hopes of appeasing the regime, said Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor of Korean studies at Tufts University.
Much of that money came after North Korea launched a missile across Japan in 1998, which sent a message that their defiance could be rewarded, said Lee, who added that Trump’s tweet effectively declared that those days are over.
“I think that’s helpful to send a message to North Korea that no, thank you, we’re not going to go back to appeasing you,” Lee said.
The increased tensions also come as Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly relocated 1,500 citizens living along the 24-mile land border with North Korea, though it remains unclear whether that might have just been a training exercise.
But experts don’t expect the escalating tensions will trigger a preemptive U.S. military strike because South Korea would be immediately attacked in retaliation.
But in the U.S. territory of Guam, which North Korea has reportedly drawn up plans to launch missiles toward, residents remain on edge.
“Many of us have taken extra steps to prepare in whatever ways we think we ought to,” said Selina Onedera-Salas, who lives in Guam. “Notices filled with emergency response information and instructions were sent home with public school students at the start of the school year. Imagine how my children felt about reading those sheets before handing them over to me.”
The tension in Guam, she said, is palpable.
“I have friends who have prepared their homes,” she said, “and I know a few others who feel like their patriotism to the American flag is their silent prayer for divine intervention.”
Chris Villani contribute to this report. ___
This article is written by Chris Cassidy from Boston Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.