Just when President Donald Trump’s strategy for North Korea was finally starting to show dividends, he threw it a curve.
WASHINGTON — Just when President Donald Trump’s strategy for North Korea was finally starting to show dividends, he threw it a curve.
At long last, his administration seemed to be speaking with one voice on a key national security issue, a surprisingly elusive task in Trump’s first six months. But he upended all that with a threat to slam the North with “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it provoked America again.
By inflaming the situation, Trump also may have undermined the only serious prospect for resolving the North Korea crisis: successful cooperation with China.
Trump’s strategy has relied on a delicate diplomatic two-step: increasing pressure on China in hopes that, in turn, China will use its influence to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear aspirations. Trump had been deeply frustrated by China’s recalcitrance, but there were signs it was finally coming around, including its vote in favor of the toughest U.N. sanctions in a generation — possibly ever.
On its face, Trump’s move seemed to fit a pattern in which he becomes his own biggest obstacle to achieving his objectives. Sometimes he exposes divisions within his administration that others can then exploit. Other times, Trump stakes out positions so unpopular that needed partners can’t afford to work with him. In other cases, he’s played directly into his critics’ worst suspicions about him.
That tendency has been on display repeatedly, including in his firing of the former FBI director who had been investigating his campaign’s…
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