Yesterday (Washington time), on March 8th, a stunned world learned that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has agreed to stop any further missile and nuclear tests, to denuclearize his regime in the long term, and that he’ll meet US President Donald Trump to discuss this. As luck would have it, this happened on the 35th anniversary of President Reagan’s “Evil Empire” speech.
Of course, the North Koreans have already made promises of denuclearization several times before, notably in the early 1990s and in the late 2000s, and never kept them. And, when Kim’s father Kim Jong-il promised, in 2000, to stop his missile tests and Russian President Vladimir Putin relayed that to the G8 group, the now-deceased Kim Jong-il said he was only kidding. So guarded optimism is in order. There is no guarantee that North Korea will live up to its promise this time.
Nonetheless, there is a small chance that this objective will be achieved. The fact that Kim has agreed to denuclearize and to meet Trump is already a moderate success.
This being the case, it is necessary to underline how it was achieved.
The pacifist Left will, without doubt, claim that this was due to patient diplomacy and to appeasement policies on the part of South Korean President Kim Jong-un.
Others, especially members of President Trump’s Republican Party, claim this was due to the new, tough sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by Trump.
Both of these camps are wrong, however. While diplomacy and sanctions did contribute, in a minor way, to this success, it is due primarily to President Trump’s unrelenting military pressure on North Korea.
Since coming into office, despite facing provocations (including repeat nuclear and missile tests) by North Korea, President Trump has applied unrelenting military (as well as economic and diplomatic) pressure on Pyongyang, notably by :
- Accelerating the (previously slow) modernization of the US nuclear deterrent ;
- Openly declaring that this deterrent must be “in tip-top shape” and the biggest and most modern nuclear arsenal in the world ;
- Openly threating to wipe North Korea off the map if it attacked anyone ;
- Openly declaring to the world, including to the UN, that the US will respond with full military force to any North Korean provocation or aggression.
- Sending three carrier battle groups (CBGs) towards the Korean Peninsula, including the appropriately named USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76).
- Holding new military exercises with South Korea.
- And last, but not least, increasing the number and the reliability of the missile defense interceptors protecting the US, especially Hawaii and Alaska, from North Korean missiles.
This enormous and unrelenting military pressure gave North Korea no choice but to stop its nuclear and missile tests and to agree to long-term denuclearization.
This is in stark contrast to the Obama Administration’s utterly failed “strategic patience” policy, which was essentially about ignoring and downplaying the North Korean threat – pretending that it didn’t exist or that it was greatly exaggerated by the Republican Party.
And what were the results ? Accelerated North Korean development of nuclear weapons and ICBMs capable of reaching as far as Chicago. This was the state of affairs Obama bequeathed to Trump in 2017.
The lesson the whole world – especially the Western world – must learn from this is that appeasement and unilateral disarmament ALWAYS result in utter failure. The only way to deal with potential aggressors is by amassing superior military strength and demonstrating clear willingness to use it if and when necessary.
This is the right lesson to learn from this episode – a lesson the West should’ve already learned in March 1983, when President Reagan delivered his landmark “Evil Empire” and “Peace Through Strength” speeches.