But Trump this past week strongly criticized China for still allowing oil supplies to North Korea, highlighting the likely limits on Beijing’s willingness to put the squeeze on its unpredictable neighbor. So far, pressure hasn’t accomplished the stated goal: forcing the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program or, at least, to enter negotiations over such a possibility. Kim has remained focused on developing a nuclear arsenal he views as guaranteeing regime survival. And his program advanced leaps and bounds during 2017.
After a rash of failed missile tests last year, North Korea has conducted more than 20 missile launches since Trump came to office. It also tested what it described as a hydrogen bomb — an underground blast so big it registered as a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Then in late November, it test-fired a new intercontinental missile in the clearest demonstration yet that all of America was within its striking range.
Trump has compounded the world’s sense of alarm. While he has presented his own threats as proof of an America that won’t be intimidated, critics at home and abroad have argued that he has elevated the risk of nuclear conflict through his personal insults to Kim.