Trump’s North Korea Policy Is Still Confused
North Korea raised eyebrows around the world last weekend when it rolled out a massive new ballistic missile system, with projectiles that can be launched off of trucks and carry multiple warheads as far as the United States. But as usual, U.S. President Donald Trump’s top national security aides didn’t have their story straight about the threat posed by the weapons, adding to a muted response from the administration.
How you see North Korea depends on where you sit.
Greeting the South Korean minister of defense at the Pentagon on Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper called North Korea’s nuclear program a “serious threat to the security and stability of the region and the world.” But his colleague, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, didn’t seem to agree: When asked on Wednesday if Trump’s diplomacy reduced the threat from North Korea, Pompeo said yes, adding that North Korea “did exactly zero” intercontinental ballistic missile tests last year.
“The agreement, the understandings, albeit not achieving our ultimate objective in North Korea, has certainly led to reduced risk from the United States vis where we would have been had we continued on the path that the previous administration had engaged in,” Pompeo said.
Not so fast, Mike. Pompeo’s comments were lampooned by arms control advocates, who said that the Trump administration’s track record against the North Korean nuclear threat was worse than Obama’s. “So ridiculous from Pompeo,” tweeted Kingston Reif, the director for disarmament and threat reduction policy at the Arms Control Association. “North Korea conducted an ICBM test for the first time in 2017. Three of them actually.”