On Saturday, North Korea launched a missile. The attempt failed, exploding moments after launch, but nevertheless the missile firing shows that North Korea’s military technology is advancing, whether we like it or not. Even if they do not yet have the technical prowess, they are pouring an incredible amount of resources and funding into this program.
As a country, we seem to be divided over whether the president’s response to this action was enough. Liberals will tout how President Donald Trump was golfing in South Florida the entire weekend and couldn’t be bothered to give a response until Sunday morning. Conservatives will praise the fact that Trump got China to “crack down” on North Korea, as a recent editorial in a government-affiliated Chinese publication claimed that oil shipments to North Korea would be “severely limited” if the nuclear program continued. It should be noted that this statement, along with claims of 150,000 troops sent to the North Korea-China border occurred before the missile launching, not after it.
We’re not here to devise the perfect solution for dealing with North Korea; that’s probably best left to the experts, since the prospect of a nuclear war looms steadily. What we want to analyze is the American reaction to this, across the political spectrum.
It’s very easy to point at Trump in his cushy Mar-a-Lago resort and say that his response is unpresidential. It’s easy to toss around the tax returns again and to say that the only thing Trump is doing is golfing. It’s also very easy to hail Trump as some sort of foreign relations hero, who is mending ties with China and telling North Korea who is boss. It’s very easy to fall into the rhetoric that our respective sides are telling us, that websites with names like Conservative Fighters and Occupy Democrats are blasting in all-caps and with flagrant buzzwords.
The truth, as always, is more complicated. It won’t be in all-caps, and it won’t be contained in a single article.
North Korea’s vice foreign minister, Han Song Ryol, has said Trump was “more vicious and more aggressive” than other presidents and that his inflammatory words are “making trouble.” Though Trump is infamously provocative on Twitter, we have to acknowledge it was not solely Trump’s tweets that provoked North Korea. We are not on good terms, to put it lightly. Trump’s tweets aren’t necessarily the cause, but they are a factor.
Trump had it out for China during his campaign, calling them “currency manipulators.” But as North Korea’s only major ally, China plays a pivotal role in these tensions. Exactly how much of a role Trump has played in getting China to “work with us” regarding North Korea is unknown. Perhaps he did single-handedly convince President Xi, or perhaps there was a more drawn-out discussion, or perhaps the Chinese president had made up his mind already. The fact is, Trump is recognizing the powerful role that China plays in foreign relations, and he is working with them, instead of labeling them manipulators as he did previously.
These are just two paragraphs about a decades-long relationship between the U.S., China, and North and South Korea. This is by no means a full analysis or solution. It goes to show that we cannot jump to conclusions based on Facebook headlines. Don’t shout “war,” don’t hail heroes or villains, and don’t reduce a dangerous and complex foreign-relations situation to information you get from comment wars on social media.