Years of tension between the United States and North Korea are culminating in a series of attacks and agreements with rival countries. While North Korea has had a fully functioning nuclear program since the Clinton administration, presidential opinions have differed on how to handle it. Over the years, many U.S. leaders have chosen to rely on relations with China to leverage North Korea into giving up this program, but over the past few months, the Trump administration has indicated that it will take a much more direct approach.

“The policy of strategic patience has ended,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a speech in South Korea.

Tillerson’s message, which was given on Easter Sunday, stated that military tactics would be used only if U.S. or South Korean forces were directly threatened. However, many have seen veiled threats in his ideology that a “new approach” needs to be taken to North Korean politics, and a Navy strike group was already ordered into the area in early April.  

Currently, though, the main source of strategy with North Korea continues to hinge on Chinese forces, who have been known to cooperate with both sides of the issue. This supposed conflict of interest has led many, such as President Donald Trump and Tillerson himself, to decry the country’s inaction. Therefore, even as military action still appears to be a last resort, 300,000 U.S. and South Korean forces continue to participate in military drills that have become ever more accommodating to the possibility of North Korean attack. Additionally, the United States has also used economic sanctions and cyber-attacks to combat North Korean missile efforts.

As relations grow ever more unpredictable by the day, new options continue to be developed within Washington. However, figures such as Trump and Tillerson have made it clear that, whatever the course may be, it will be a direct battle between the United States and North Korea, with little intermediary assistance from other countries such as China.

Photo courtesy of Fox News.

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