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Trump’s Foreign Policy Evolving in North Korea, Syria, and Afghanistan

Nathaniel Selub

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[ot-caption title=”President Trump is currently trying to deal with multiple foreign policy dilemmas.” (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)”]

This week has been very interesting for President Trump around the globe, and as the president’s 100th day in office is approaching, he is currently handling an escalating situation in North Korea, mixed relations with China, and chemical weapons problems in Syria, not to mention the ongoing congressional investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.  [spacer height=”20px”]

Tensions have been steadily rising in Eastern Asia as North Korea conducted another missile test on Sunday, April 16, which exploded shortly after takeoff. This blunder is the latest in the Asian country’s attempts to develop a nuclear arsenal. Social sciences teacher Dr. Herard points out that although this is frightening new information from North Korea, they have been trying to develop nuclear weaponry for years. Since 2003, when they withdrew from the Nonproliferation Treaty and restarted a nuclear reactor, North Korea has been steadily working towards a formidable nuclear stockpile. Concerned neighbors South Korea and Japan have called for both the US and North Korea to de-escalate tensions.

In response to these tensions, President Trump has signaled that he is willing to offer concessions to China, North Korea’s longtime ally, in order to resolve the growing nuclear problem. These concessions may include the president backing out of his campaign promise to label China a currency manipulator; however, the president’s tweets and public statements on North Korea and its relationship with China may be hindering his ability to reach a diplomatic solution. Vice President Mike Pence, who was in South Korea when the missile launch failed, said that the time for patience was gone, and the US would take significant measures to ensure North Korea’s cooperation. What those measures may entail remains to be seen. [spacer height=”20px”]

President Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East has also caused much domestic and international confusion. On April 13, the United States dropped a powerful bomb on an ISIS complex in Afghanistan; however, this was no ordinary missile. The nicknamed “mother of all bombs” is the most powerful non-nuclear missile in the US arsenal. It was dropped on an ISIS-controlled tunnel complex in the eastern Nangarhar province, killing at least 94 ISIS fighters and several key officials. Though the bombing was seemingly successful, the US has not released any proof for its estimation of killed fighters, nor has it released any other information, including civilian casualties. It is also important to note that in the area bombed there were previously estimated to be at least 600 to 800 ISIS fighters in total. The White House claims this attack was, in the President’s words, “A very, very successful mission,” in response to criticism that the bombing was ill-advised and poorly executed. The international community is waiting to see how this attack corresponds to the United States’ involvement in the Syrian civil war. [spacer height=”20px”]

The White House has sent out many distinct messages about Syria recently. The president ran on a platform that focused on defeating ISIS before trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, often criticizing President Obama for his anti-Assad regime position. Even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the Syrian people should be allowed to decide their government, in direct contradiction to UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s statements that Syria would not see peace with Assad as ruler. [spacer height=”20px”]

After the Syrian president allegedly attacked a small Syrian village on April 4 with sarin gas, a nerve agent banned under international law, Secretary Tillerson said it was time for the Syrian president to give up power, signaling another change in policy. The chemical attack has been attributed to the Assad regime by multiple sources, implying that the Assad government retained at least some of the chemical weapons that they were ordered to relinquish in 2013. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is currently investigating the attack, which left 86 dead and many more critically injured. In response to the attack, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer implied that Assad is worse than Adolf Hitler, because Hitler “didn’t even sink to…using chemical weapons.” He later issued an apology, stating that he was mistaken, and Hitler had indeed made prolific use of gas chambers in death camps during the Holocaust. However, Spicer’s comments have drawn national outrage for his failure to recognize the suffering of Jewish people during the Holocaust. The White House has also drawn criticism given Russia’s staunchly pro-Assad position in Syria with some wondering whether or not President Trump is taking a hard line stance on the Syrian government to prove he is not an agent of the Russian government. These skeptics include foreign policy expert, author, and professor Greg Grandin, who believes this is yet another distraction from accusations of collusion with Russia as well as their meddling in the 2016 election. [spacer height=”20px”]

As President Trump’s first 100 days conclude, the world looks to the US to clarify its policies in East Asia and the Middle East. The US Treasury Department is expected to release a report soon, which may or may not label China as a currency manipulator. Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence has yet to clarify his strong remarks on the North Korean crisis, and the president is now faced with the option to engage more or less in Syria, as well as to determine a strong position on ISIS throughout the Middle East. The United Nations Security Council is considering new sanctions for North Korea to be effective as soon as possible until the country stops trying to develop nuclear technology. [spacer height=”20px”]

Sources: CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, Vox, Brookings, Politifact, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Independent, Common Dreams, Fusion, CBS, CNBC

Photo License: Flickr

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Trump’s Foreign Policy Evolving in North Korea, Syria, and Afghanistan