WASHINGTON, August 10, 2017 — “The President expressed with great emphasis the opinion that if the Chinese Communists attacked us again, we should certainly respond by hitting them hard and wherever it would hurt most, including Pieping [Beijing] itself. This, said the President, would mean all-out war against Communist China.”
So reads a National Security Council document dated Dec. 3, 1953, concerning President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s possible use of nuclear weapons to clean up the Truman administration’s incoherent Korean War policy.
After all, Truman fired the most effective military commander in the Korean theater of operations, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, for insisting the conflict end in victory and not stalemate.
Much later, on October 18, 1994, President Bill Clinton announced another incoherent North Korean policy:
“I am pleased that the United States and North Korea yesterday reached agreement on the text of a framework document on North Korea’s nuclear program. This agreement will help to achieve a longstanding and vital American objective: an end to the threat of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula.
“This agreement is good for the United States, good for our allies, and good for the safety of the entire world. It reduces the danger of the threat of nuclear spreading in the region. It’s a crucial step toward drawing North Korea into the global community.”
In March 2015, North Korea announced, “We will launch an all-out offensive to decisively counter the U.S. and its followers’ hysterical nuclear war moves.”
The following August, North Korea said it would “turn the stronghold of provocation into a heap of ashes through a Korean-style pre-emptive nuclear strike.”
In October that same year, North Korean official Lee Yong Pil told NBC News, “A preemptive nuclear strike is not something the US has a monopoly on. If we see that the U.S. would do it to us, we would do it first.”
These threats were made during the Obama administration, which negotiated a nuclear deal with Iran echoing Clinton’s deal with Korea.
And so, it falls to another Republican administration to clean up the mess left by its Democratic predecessors.
Of the latest round of nuclear threats made on America by the “hermit kingdom,” President Donald Trump said, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. He [Kim Jong-un] has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
This, of course, did not sit well with the editorial board at the New York Times:
“Mr. Trump is president of the United States, and if prudent, disciplined leadership was ever required, it is now. Rhetorically stomping his feet, as he did on Tuesday, is not just irresponsible; it is dangerous … He commands the most powerful nuclear and conventional arsenal in the world, and any miscalculation could be catastrophic.”
Trump was simply reminding a rogue regime, in the words of President John F. Kennedy:
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.”
Whether Trump is forced to clean up Harry Truman’s unfinished North Korean mess with China’s saber-rattling ally—which, like Imperial Japan, may find itself on the nuclear ash heap of history—depends entirely on the actions of North Korea’s rotund, chain smoking, caviar and Champagne-loving dictator.