President Donald Trump stressed that North Korea “is a problem” that will be dealt with Thursday, shortly after news broke that the U.S. military dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on the Islamic State in Afghanistan.
“I don’t know if this sends a message. It doesn’t make any difference if it does or not,” Trump said. “North Korea is a problem. The problem will be taken care of.”
The bomb dropped Thursday, a GBU-43 nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” was designed to obliterate an ISIS tunnel camp underground. The strike on ISIS marks the second major strike in a week. Trump ordered cruise missile strikes on a Syrian airbase last Thursday in response to a chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians by the Syrian regime. In the aftermath of the Syria strike, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the strikes signaled that the president is “willing to act when governments and actors cross the line,” adding, “It is clear that President Trump made that statement to the world tonight.”
North Korea appears to be on the verge of a sixth nuclear test, with analysts reporting that the Punggye-ri nuclear test site is “primed and ready” for a potential nuclear provocation. Evidence suggests that a nuclear device may already be in the tunnels in preparation for another test.
Trump’s strikes on Syria and ISIS may have the effect of restoring America’s deterrence capability after years of inaction. In North Korea, the previous administration’s approach was known as “strategic patience,” although during former President Barack Obama’s time in office, Pyongyang tested four nuclear devices. Whether North Korea will be deterred by the recent strikes remains to be seen.
Calling the the Trump administration’s actions in Syria “absolutely unpardonable,” the North Korean foreign ministry said that while some observers suspect the strikes were a “warning,” the North is “not frightened.”
A U.S. Navy carrier strike group led by the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is currently sailing towards the Korean Peninsula in preparation for a possible crisis involving North Korea.
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