U.S. President Donald Trump told the National Assembly on Wednesday, "We will not permit America or our allies to be blackmailed or attacked... Do not underestimate us. And do not try us." "We will not be intimidated. And we will not let the worst atrocities in history be repeated here on this ground we fought and died so hard to secure," he added. "That is why I come here to the heart of a free and flourishing [South] Korea with a message for the peace-loving nations of the world: The time for excuses is over... I also have come here to this peninsula to deliver a message directly to the leader of the North Korean dictatorship."
He warned Kim Jong-un that the weapons he is acquiring "are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face." But he promised him to "offer a path to a much better future. It begins with an end to the aggression of your regime, a stop to your development of ballistic missiles, and complete, verifiable, and total denuclearization." Trump also urged China to sever all trade with the North.
Trump's North Korea policy is based on isolating the North by maximizing diplomatic and economic pressure, while ensuring that military options are always ready to be used. He delivered the speech right on North Korea's doorstep, as both a stern warning to Kim and a firm pledge to South Koreans.
Trump also calmed fears of the U.S. taking unilateral military actions against North Korea without informing South Korea, or holding direct talks with Pyongyang while sidelining Seoul that would result in a pledge to either reduce U.S. troops stationed in the South. Trump said the precondition to sitting down for talks with North Korea was "complete, verifiable, and total denuclearization."
Trump referred to Kim as a dictator and tyrant and North Korea as "hell," a "prison state" and a "military cult." In reality, such words are not enough to describe the cruelty of the North, where an elite minority rules over 20 million people who are treated like slaves. Now the North wants to destroy the South with nuclear weapons. Thae Yong-ho, the former No. 2 official at the North Korean Embassy in the U.K. who defected to South Korea last year, told the U.S. House of Representatives last week that he believes Kim is capable of anything when threatened.
Those words are a testimony by someone who knows the North Korean leader and also a warning to Seoul. Solving the North Korean menace starts by shaking off any fantasy South Koreans may entertain about the North.
Contrary to concerns, Trump's two-day visit to South Korea reaffirmed the alliance between the U.S. and the South. But in politics, promises can change depending on national interests. Seoul must not give up on its right to defend itself. It should strengthen its own deterrence based on the alliance including re-deployment of strategic weapons and U.S. nuclear umbrella.
Above all, it must let the North Korean leader know that his only option is total denuclearization, as Trump pointed out. Maximum pressure on North Korea can be compromised by the smallest of fissure in the alliance.