The New York Times reports: North Korea may have refrained from detonating a nuclear device and botched another missile test this weekend, easing tensions in Asia. But it is unclear whether President Trump has found a way around the limited options against North Korea that constrained his predecessors and put it on the path to becoming a nuclear power.
Mr. Trump essentially has three choices: a military strike that could ignite a full-blown war; pressure on China to impose tougher sanctions to persuade the North to change course, an approach that failed for his predecessors; or a deal that could require significant concessions, with no guarantee that North Korea would fulfill its promises.
Thus far, Mr. Trump has tried to signal both resolve and ambiguity, suggesting at various times that he is open to all three options. The question is whether his apparent willingness to consider both war and a deal may be enough carrot and stick to persuade China to change its approach and apply enough pressure to bring the North to the table.
Vice President Mike Pence, during a visit to South Korea, raised the possibility on Monday that the Trump administration could pursue talks. No one should mistake the resolve of the United States, he said, also noting that Washington was seeking security “through peaceable means, through negotiations.” The phrasing was unusual for a senior American official discussing the Korean Peninsula with American troops in the background.
Talks have long been China’s preference, and now that Mr. Trump seems to be relying on Beijing to an unprecedented degree, Mr. Pence may have been signaling that the United States was open to negotiations. China’s chief objective is to get talks — of any kind — started to avoid conflict so close to home. [Continue reading…]