February 15, 2017

North Korea to Donald Trump: Challenge Accepted

By Patrick M. Cronin

The exclusive, members-only Mar-a-Lago Club is accustomed to keeping out riffraff, but not even Donald Trump’s private retreat fortified by Secret Service agents could prevent Kim Jong-un from intruding upon his golf-diplomacy summit with Shinzo Abe. Test firing a nuclear-capable missile into the Sea of Japan provides a type of admission, albeit a very expensive and unwelcome one.

The test also interrupted forty-eight hours of hugely successful Asia diplomacy for the Trump administration. It abruptly changed the conversation from an invigorated U.S.-Japan alliance and a stabilized U.S.-China relationship. Thus, less than a month into a hugger-mugger transition of power, President Trump’s besieged and revolving national-security team could be forgiven if North Korea’s missile launch—followed by the reported poisoning of Kim Jong-un’s half brother—made some recall Henry Kissinger’s quip that “there cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.”

Kim was counting on creating a crisis for the fledgling Trump administration. By firing a mobile, solid-fuel intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) from an air base near the northwest frontier with China, Kim maximized the element of surprise to ensure intelligence agencies had none of the early-warning signals that would attend a fixed-site, liquid-fuel launch. Kim also chose the moment to provide sharp contrast between his thrusting missile capabilities and the no longer de-stressing leaders of the region’s strongest alliance.

Read the full article at The National Interest.

  • Reports
    • October 28, 2020
    Digital Entanglement

    China’s push to dominate digital infrastructure leaves liberal democratic countries at a critical juncture....

    By Kristine Lee, Martijn Rasser, Joshua Fitt & ​Coby Goldberg

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • October 23, 2020
    Trump, Not Biden, Wrecked American Power in the Pacific

    By any measurable indicator, America’s standing has been lower in Asia during Trump’s presidency than before it....

    By Van Jackson & Hunter Marston

  • Commentary
    • Divergent Options
    • October 23, 2020
    Assessing the Impact of Dialectical Materialism on Xi Jinping’s Strategic Thinking

    Xi Jinping has made his views rather plain to Party members....

    By ​Coby Goldberg

  • Commentary
    • Lawfare
    • October 20, 2020
    What to Do About Xinjiang

    A more aggressive U.S. approach is needed in order to generate the sort of economic reaction required to have any hope of influencing Chinese policymaking....

    By Jordan Schneider

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia