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Is the US About to Turn Up the Heat on North Korea?

Jacqueline Leo

America’s pivot to Asia under the Obama administration has developed sharper elbows under Trump.

This trip ostensibly is a diplomatic sweep of key countries to discuss many issues, including trade. But everyone has been provoked by an unstable North Korean dictator who appears to want to do more than test his growing supply of illicit nuclear weapons — he wants to use them. His threats are changing how other countries in the region are responding to the North Korean menace.

The United States has sent naval vessels to the South China Sea and deployed its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) to South Korea. That is irritating China, which has been building up its presence in the area. Japan has fortified its naval capability, presumably with anti-missile capability on board its new ships.

But Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s erratic president, has his own agenda and doesn’t seem to care that China doesn’t appreciate one of its satellite countries going rogue on nukes.

How should Tillerson handle a bad actor like Kim Jong-un? China, Japan and South Korea want to negotiate a deal. But Tillerson said Friday, “The policy of strategic patience has ended. We’re exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures.” He warned that the administration could take pre-emptive action “if they elevate the threat of their weapons program [to an unacceptable level]. All options are on the table.”

How did this happen? How did we get here?

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