After President Donald Trump won the 2016 election, then-President Barack Obama warned him that North Korea would be his “biggest problem” once he stepped into office.
“President Obama told me when I had the one meeting with him, he said that’s your biggest problem. That’s going to be the most difficult thing you have,” the president revealed during a press conference Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Yet exactly 533 days after that fateful meeting on Nov. 10, 2018, a member of North Korea’s ruling Kim dynasty crossed into South Korea for the first time in 65 years to take part in a historic peace summit, all thanks to Trump.
“Big problem?” I think not.
Whether or not North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is sincere in his desire to permanently denuclearize the hermit kingdom and establish peace with South Korea remains unknown, of course.
What happened this Friday still represents a monumental achievement nonetheless. One that Trump argued Friday should have been attained ages ago.
“I wish it were handled by another administration years ago,” he said. “I’m not just talking about President Obama. I’d go back to any administration you want. But over the last 25 years, this should have been handled a long time ago, not now. This should not have been left for me to handle. But we will handle it. We’re handling it well.”
The credit for the administration’s success lies entirely with the president, whose willingness to be tough in his approach toward both North Korea and its closest ally, China, played a large role in spurring Kim into compliance.
Trump successfully persuaded Beijing to leverage its ties to the hermit kingdom to put added pressure on it. Combined with his own tough rhetoric, this forced Kim into a tough corner. Like former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly noted Friday, Kim realized that, unlike Obama, Trump wasn’t scared to sanction him into bankruptcy and/or bomb him to smithereens.
This strategy belies the one used by Obama, who like other former presidents refused to drop the hammer on Kim and his dangerous regime. During an CBS News interview in early 2016, he explained why he refused to merely even consider bombing North Korea.
“We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals. But aside from the humanitarian costs of that, they are right next door to our vital ally, Republic of Korea,” he said.
There were no ifs, ands or butts from Trump, who was ready from day one to pursue any tactic required to force Kim’s hand. And wouldn’t you know it, his approach has worked beautifully.
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