The American president has one job: to prevent the detonation of nuclear weapons. Everything else – the economy, the Supreme Court, the environment, Obamacare, the Russian scandal du jour etc. – is irrelevant. Thus, President Trump has three issues he must address:  the first is North Korea, the second is North Korea and the third is North Korea.

With the successful launching of two ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles), North Korea is now poised to have the technology to hit the American mainland with a nuclear warhead within two years.  President Trump has three options: allow North Korea to develop a nuclear-armed ICBM, continue to use diplomacy or a military strike.

Allow North Korea to develop a nuclear-armed ICBM. 
It may well be that if North Korea develops a nuclear-armed ICBM; they will feel secure and not threaten to use it. Launching a missile at the United States would unleash a response that incinerates their country.

But the more likely scenario is that North Korea will employ nuclear blackmail and demand we remove our 28,000 troops that occupy the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Our thriving capitalist ally, South Korea, would be immediately conquered and become the Communist cesspool of misery, starvation, gulags and mass murder that now characterize North Korea.

Will President Trump and our military leaders risk a nuclear exchange to protect South Korea? Will the American people support such action? Who knows?

Continue Diplomacy. 
The conventional wisdom is that we should channel our diplomacy to force China, North Korea’s protector, to goad them into stopping their nuclear program while placing further sanctions on North Korea and China itself.

But three previous administrations have failed with this approach. One of President Trump’s first diplomatic efforts was to fete the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, at his mansion in Mar-a- Lago. This was perfectly reasonable, but it was unsuccessful. Not only did the Chinese make no attempt to stop North Korea, they supplied them with the mobile missile launchers that render it impossible for us to target nuclear-armed ICBMs.

The Trump administration has responded with increased military exercises near North Korea, allowing Taiwan $1.5 billion in new weapons and urging South Korea to deploy the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile defense system. While this has irritated the Chinese, no action has been taken to stop North Korea. Further sanctions such as not allowing Chinese students to study in the United States, tying up Chinese banks, launching a trade war or disallowing wealthy Chinese to purchase American property are options ; but are unlikely to change Chinese behavior.

A Military Strike.
 President Trump could launch a military strike against North Korea with the goal of regime change or a more limited surgical strike that destroys the facilities that manufacture nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, North Korea could launch a missile attack at Seoul, South Korea’s capital, which would kill millions. Furthermore, how would China react? This could conceivably start World War III and return the planet to the Dark Ages.

Recently, General Mark Milley, the U.S. Army chief of staff stated, “time is running out” for a diplomatic solution. General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was more blunt, stating: “What is unimaginable to me is allowing the capability to allow nuclear weapons [from North Korea] to land in Denver, Colorado. My job will be to develop military options to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Thus, the Trump administration may be leaning towards military action or at least towards threatening it — to increase diplomatic leverage. We can no longer kick the can down the street.

One thing is for sure. Should President Trump decide on military force, all other issues will quickly become irrelevant, as the entire planet focuses on how the Chinese will respond.

Joe Bentivegna is an ophthalmologist in Rocky Hill. 

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