On Thursday, Donald Trump will host Chinese President Xi Jinping for diplomatic discussions (and maybe some golf?) at the lavish Mar-a-Lago resort. Ahead of that shindig, Trump issued a warning of sorts via a Financial Times interview, in which the president says the U.S. will act alone to stop North Korea (that is, without China’s assistance if necessary) from acting upon its many nuclear threats.
Trump’s words follow a period of accelerating aggression by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, who’s grown absolutely giddy for missile tests. The most alarming recent development involved the country launching four missiles that were intended as “tests” for hitting U.S. military bases in Japan. In response, the U.S. delivered missile launchers and other equipment to South Korea as part of a missile defense system (THAAD). This instantly put Beijing on edge and resulted in a Chinese threat of an arms race.
Trump doesn’t appear to be fazed by China’s reaction and says the U.S. is prepared to get’ er done, although his words remain vague:
“Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, We will. That is all I am telling you … China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t.”
Again, Trump doesn’t reveal whether he’s talking about preemptive action against North Korea, but as far as defense goes, THAAD can reportedly intercept missiles as they approach their targets, and North Korea didn’t leave the U.S. military much choice on whether to deploy the antimissile system. The Financial Times also quotes Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland as saying there’s a “real possibility” that Kim Jong-Un’s regime will be able to strike the U.S. with a nuclear-armed missile within the next few years. Whether or not that’s true is up for debate since North Korea’s been nuke-happy for decades, and they haven’t yet been able to strap a nuke to an intercontinental ballistic missile, but their clear intent is to do so.
One thing is certaiin — Trump’s comments could add drama to his meeting with President Xinping. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who cleared his schedule of a NATO meeting, will also be present at the Mar-a-Lago this week.