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What can Trump actually do about North Korea?


Since becoming president, Donald Trump has at times looked like a wrecking ball to the international order. But curiously, he has said little about North Korea, Adam Cathcart writes.
But when it comes to North Korea, he may be forced to operate within the narrow constraints of his predecessors.
President Obama famously decided that the best way of dealing with the autocracy was with a policy of “strategic patience. ” In practice, this meant strengthening sanctions and waiting for North Korea to decide itself that halting its nuclear program would be prudent.
Some members of the President’s Republican Party have previously argued for a more forceful response to North Korean aggression.
Others have advocated the drawing of a red line , telling North Korea explicitly that any intercontinental ballistic missile would be blown up on the launch pad.
Trump’s Twitter activity, prior to his inauguration, suggested that he was in agreement with this line of thinking.
But while taking such steps would be vigorous and decisive, it could possibly lead to a wider war.
Seoul, the South Korean capital, is within striking range of North Korean artillery, and Kim Jong Un has not been shy about his readiness to lash out.
Such escalations might include the shelling of South Korean-held islands off of his coastline, the insertion of landmines into the Demilitarized Zone, attacks on the South Korean navy, or even commando attacks on the Blue House (the home of South Korea’s president) in Seoul.
Escalation can happen very quickly on the peninsula — as was the case in the summer of 1950 , when a series of border clashes on the 38th parallel turned into an all-out invasion of South Korea.
This context is important to remember when trying to understand the limits facing Trump in constraining North Korea, a country that has managed to grab headlines recently with another missile launch.

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