RISING TENSIONS WITH NORTH KOREA

Mar 8, 2017 by

Adding to the tension is a decision to install an American-made antimissile system in South Korea. Although the system has been under discussion for some time, the two countries have expedited its deployment, which began on Monday and is expected to take two months.

The move angered North Korea and China, the North’s main food and fuel supplier, which said it could lead to a break in relations with South Korea and force an arms race.

The Obama administration had long warned China that the United States and South Korea would have no choice but to deploy the antimissile system if China didn’t pressure North Korea to end its nuclear program. Beijing seemed not to take the warning seriously, although it recently restricted imports of North Korean coal.

How Mr. Trump intends to handle this brewing crisis is unclear, but he has shown an inclination to respond aggressively. On Monday, the White House denounced the missile tests and warned of “very dire consequences.”

One possibility is intensifying the cyber and electronic warfare effort against North Korea undertaken by the Obama administration and first reported by The Times on Sunday. Other options include some kind of military action, presumably against missile launch sites, and continuing to press China to cut off support. The Trump administration has also discussed reintroducing nuclear weapons into South Korea, an extremely dangerous idea.

Granted, negotiating with the North Koreans has long proved frustrating. But the Obama and Bush administrations got nowhere by further isolating the already-reclusive nation. At this point, only a new round of engagement aimed at getting North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs, and tougher sanctions to back that up, holds any reasonable promise of working.

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