(CNN)The North Korea crisis is deadly serious and President Donald Trump is pursuing a dangerous path, escalating tensions with his “fire and fury” and “locked and loaded” comments. His unpredictable behavior is being met with predictable criticism from the left.
Even as, according to news reports, the United States has been engaging in back-channel diplomacy with North Korea for months, we appear to be moving disconcertingly closer to the possibility of a nuclear exchange. To this, I say: brutal talk is just what a brutal dictator like Kim Jong Un needs to hear.
Over decades, as the Cold War came to a close in 1989 and North Korea lost the security and economic support of the Soviet Union, the Kim regime has been developing its nuclear weapons program. US presidents, both Republican and Democrat, have tried and failed to halt the regime’s efforts. The sanctions, negotiations, and war of words with North Korea have been ultimately to no avail. Enough.
Last week brought news that, according to an analysis by intelligence officials, Pyongyang has successfully produced a nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles. On Tuesday, President Trump responded with a stern warning that North Korea’s threats of nuclear attack would bring US retaliation “like the world has never seen.”
On Wednesday. Secretary of Defense James Mattis urged North Korea to stand down or face a response “that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson backed up the President’s position, saying it’s important to send a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un can understand. North Korean officials fired back with a threat of “absolute force,” claiming “sound dialogue is not possible with such a guy bereft of reason.”
Pyongyang’s blustering reaction is to be expected.
What is perplexing, however, is that in the face of this provocative behavior from North Korea, Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and congressman Adam Schiff, have been critical of President Trump, calling him “bombastic,” “unhinged” and “reckless.”
Senator Marco Rubio struck a more rational note, responding via Twitter: “Attacks on @potus for statement on #NorthKoreaNukes are ridiculous. They act as if #NorthKorea would act different if he used nicer words.”
It should be noted that Democrats and their failed approach have contributed to the position we are in today.
During former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearing in 2009, she said the Obama administration believed that six-party talks were “a vehicle for us to exert pressure on North Korea in a way that is more likely to alter their behavior.” “We will embark upon a very aggressive effort to try to determine the best way forward to achieve our objectives with them,” she added.
Unfortunately, during the Obama administration, the North Koreans made rapid advancement in their nuclear program. We learned that the regime had conducted at least four nuclear tests, constructed a uranium enrichment facility at Yongbyon, worked to develop ballistic missiles that can deliver a nuclear warhead, and constructed an experimental light water reactor at Yongbyon.
Obama’s era of “strategic patience” failed to halt North Korea’s march toward nuclear capability.
Even well before that, there had been no end of words, half measures and meaningless pacts: President George W. Bush described Kim Jong Il as a “tyrant.” North Korea parried by calling him an “imbecile” and a “tyrant that puts Hitler in the shade.”
President Bill Clinton negotiated the “Agreed Framework” — initially brokered by former President Jimmy Carter, meeting as a private citizen with Kim Il Sung — under which North Korea agreed to freeze plutonium production. Critics say it gave North Korea too much time to comply with inspections, and the regime, in fact, violated the agreement in short order.
Now the regime has made it clear that they have no intention of denuclearization.
Diplomacy has not worked with the madmen of Korea. It’s time to replace tepid talk with tough talk. If North Korea does not halt its weapons program, it is indeed time to be ready with a “rain of ruin” like they have never seen.