Six weeks ago, North Korea threatened to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). President Trump tweeted that he wouldn’t let it happen and also promised to stop the aggressors from developing a weapon capable of hitting the US. Nevertheless, North Korea successfully launched a ballistic missile yesterday into the Sea of Japan; while the missile had nowhere near the capacity to travel all the way to the United States, it did have the range to hit Japan, South Korea, and other US allies in the region. Surprisingly, Trump didn’t respond by threatening sanctions like he did to Iran when they tested a missile. President Trump simply read a short statement promising support for Japan, whose prime minister Shinzo Abe was currently visiting the White House. Many view Trump’s careful response as irrefutable proof that the president can maintain a cool head under pressure. Such supporters agree that Trump is refusing to be bullied by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and is instead looking for a more diplomatic way to treat the defiant country. On the other hand, Trump’s critics argue that Trump’s response completely failed to mention any promise of protection for South Korea, which many experts believe is the country most threatened by North Korea. These critics also contend that Trump’s short statement or lack of response are simply a sign that the Trump administration still hasn’t figured out its policy toward North Korea and the Asia-Pacific region in general.

I applaud President Trump for not immersing himself in a hotheaded Twitter battle with North Korea and maintaining his cool. I also agree that his statement promising support for Japan was crucial in maintaining our mutually beneficial relationship. On the other hand, I would ask Trump: And what of our other allies threatened by North Korea? What about South Korea and other American soldiers in the Pacific? We need to remember that North Korea unfortunately does pose a threat and we must be careful to not be rash in our policy toward the country. However, I believe we also need to prove that we’re not afraid of North Korea and are not going to be intimidated into meeting their demands. It will be interesting to watch whether the Trump administration releases any further statements regarding the missile test.

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