Trump sends clearest signal yet to North Korea he is willing to go to war to stop its nuclear, missile programs

President Donald J. Trump has left little doubt that he’s willing to go to war to stop North Korea from finishing development of its nuclear weapons program as well as the means to deliver them atop an ICBM capable of reaching the United States.

In an interview with Reuters, conducted in the Oval Office, the president was equally clear that he seeks to avoid a military confrontation with the Hermit Kingdom. But at the same time, if pressed – and if the U.S., China, the United Nations and other governments are not successful in convincing leader Kim Jong-un to abandon his nuclear ambitions – Trump is prepared to act.

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump said, adding: “We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult.”

The White House is said to be preparing a new package of economic sanctions that it hopes will be approved by the UN Security Council, but the president, aware that the North Korea issue has plagued several past U.S. administrations, is not taking the military option off the table. (RELATED: Senators told North Korean nuke threat ‘urgent’)

Trump, it seems, has decided he won’t become just another president who kicks this can down the road.

On Friday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson chaired a meeting of the UN Security Council, calling on members to level new, tougher economic sanctions against Pyongyang. Tillerson’s meeting with the council comes after a lunch Trump held with them earlier this week, in which North Korea was a focus.

“Our nation faces serious and growing threats, and many of them stem from problems that have been unaddressed for far too long,” the president said. “The status quo in North Korea is also unacceptable, and the Council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile programs.  This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not.”

China – the North’s sole major ally – has been key to resolving the nuclear issue in North Korea. But Beijing has, so far, been unable to use its influence to convince Kim to drop his programs. In fact, last week China sent a nuclear envoy to Pyongyang to meet with Kim and warn him of the consequences if he continued on his current path, but the delegation was rebuffed.

Yet it’s obvious that Trump understands China has a major role to play in any decision the U.S. eventually makes regarding North Korea – be it diplomatic or military. That was evidenced by his decision to defer an offer from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen to hold another phone call at some point in the future, following a direct conversation in December from Tsai in which she congratulated Trump on his Nov. 8 victory, but which upset the Chinese government. China considers Taiwan a rogue province, but the Taiwanese government does not share that sentiment.

Trump also appears to appreciate the difficulty that Beijing is having in reining in its belligerent neighbor.

“I believe [Xi] is trying very hard. He certainly doesn’t want to see turmoil and death. He doesn’t want to see it. He is a good man. He is a very good man and I got to know him very well,” Trump told Reuters.

“With that being said, he loves China and he loves the people of China. I know he would like to be able to do something [about North Korea], perhaps it’s possible that he can’t.” (RELATED: Trump: President Obama And Bill Clinton Were “Outplayed” By North Korea)

Any U.S. action on the Korean peninsula would likely require at least the tacit approval of the Chinese government, given that North Korea and China share a common border, Beijing’s historical alliance with Pyongyang, and the fact that China would likely have to deal with a flood of refugees from North Korea in the event of war.

As for Kim, Trump was asked by Reuters whether he thought his adversary was “rational.”

“He’s 27 years old. His father dies, took over a regime. So say what you want but that is not easy, especially at that age,” Trump said.

“I’m not giving him credit or not giving him credit, I’m just saying that’s a very hard thing to do. As to whether or not he’s rational, I have no opinion on it. I hope he’s rational.”

A recent high-level defector from North Korea has said Kim would use nuclear weapons if need be in order to remain in power.

More than half of Americans — 53 percent — back military action against North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program.

J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for and, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.


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