While the Obama administration talked, North Korea conducted four nuclear tests and accelerated its missile development program, setting the stage for the country’s emergence as a fully-armed nuclear state.
“We are dealing with a nuclear power. We tried to prevent that. We failed,” Tom Malinowski, former U.S. assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor for the Obama administration, explained at a Foundation for the Defense of Democracies lecture attended by The Daily Caller News Foundation Thursday. (RELATED: Report: US Intel Indicates North Korea Now Has Everything It Needs To Nuke The US).
The Obama administration pursued a policy of “strategic patience,” a rhetorical term which the former Department of State official, who also served as a speech writer during the Clinton administration, called “meaningless.”
“We used to trot out phrases like ‘strategic patience’ all the time, and then we’d giggle about it behind close doors because these phrases don’t mean anything,” Malinowski argued, “One of the things I used to laugh at is that if you want to make it in foreign policy in Washington, you need to use the modifier ‘strategic’ before every mundane, meaningless concept.”
‘These things are silly,” he added.
“By the end of his presidency, Obama understood that whatever we were doing was not working,” Jonathan Pollack, senior fellow in the John L. Thornton China Center and Center for East Asia Policy at the Brookings Institution said at Thursday’s lecture.
Defending the previous administration, Malinowski stressed that the Trump administration’s policy was no different than former President Barack Obama’s policies for North Korea, something that has been true for several months as the new administration finds its footing.
Having declared the end of “strategic patience,” the Trump administration is pursuing a policy of “maximum pressure and engagement,” but in the early days of Trump’s first term, the policy was rather disjointed.
“Right now, the maximum pressure policy is anything but,” Bruce Klingner, former chief of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Korea branch and now senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation, explaining that despite the sharp change in rhetoric, “the Trump administration has not yet distinguished its policy from that of its predecessors.”
The administration has, however, started to swing the hammer more forcefully, stepping up economic sanctions on North Korea and those countries aiding the Kim regime.
“We have to be careful suggesting this is the same as the Obama administration when we are looking at some of these financial actions the Trump administration is taking,” Anthony Ruggiero, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and an expert in targeted financial measures with nearly two decades of experience in the U.S. government, argued. “What were we doing for those eight years? The Trump administration has finally gone after Chinese banks. They have six separate actions against Chinese entities.” (RELATED: US Cracks Down Chinese, Russian Firms Supporting The Kim Regime).
“The pressure campaign during the Obama administration was partially pushed by Congress and pushed by those outside of the government to do more,” he added, referencing legislation passed in Obama’s final year in office intended to force him to enforce U.S. laws and punish foreign companies illegally cooperating with North Korea while conducting business in U.S. dollars.
The Trump administration is walking a hard road, as North Korea has developed nuclear weapons and the ballistic missile technology to deliver nuclear payloads to targets in South Korea, Japan, and even the U.S., but it is taking action.
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