- - Monday, November 20, 2017


You can’t blame North Korea for playing American presidents for willing suckers. A succession of them applied for the job. President Trump didn’t, and Monday restored North Korea to a deserved place of prominence on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.

“We will be instituting a very critical step and that will start right now,” Mr. Trump said at the beginning of a Cabinet meeting Monday at the White House. “Today, the United States is designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Should have happened a long time ago. Should have happened years ago.”

North Korea joins three other nations — Iran, Sudan and Syria — on the State Department’s dishonor roll. North Korea was first put on the list in 1988 and removed from it when President George W. Bush was persuaded that Kim Jong-il, the father of Kim Jong-un, the current head of the North Korean state, wasn’t really such a bad guy as all that, and by taking him off the list the United States could salvage “a fragile deal” in which Pyongyang would halt its pursuit of nuclear weapons. We’ve seen how that strategy worked.

John Bolton, who was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in George W.’s administration, argued against the deal, and Monday he praised President Trump for restoring North Korea to the roll of the deplorables. He concedes that the restoration is not likely now to make much difference in Mr. Kim’s behavior, “but it’s important to say what the truth is about the regime.”

Mr. Trump has been considering the restoration for several weeks, and in doing so reminded the world that in addition to seeking nuclear weapons the Kim regime reveals itself to be a government of brutal indecencies and is unworthy of anybody’s respect. He cited how Otto Warmbier, a visiting student at the University of Virginia, was subjected to death by torture after he was arrested at the Pyongyang airport, just before he would have departed the country, for taking a cheap propaganda poster from his hotel. Mr. Trump not only called Mr. Warmbier by name, but cited “the countless others so brutally affected by the North Korean oppression.” Mr. Warmbier was returned to his parents in a coma, after falling “ill” in a North Korean prison, and died several days after his return without regaining consciousness.

Mr. Trump can expect a colorful response from Pyongyang, where Mr. Kim has been poring over his thesaurus looking for fierce adjectives he has not yet used to berate President Trump and the United States. He can expect as well the usual chiding from girly men at the State Department and among the punditry for spoiling further attempts to influence the behavior of Mr. Kim by soft talk and flaccid diplomacy. Mr. Kim, meanwhile, will continue the sucker patrol while continuing his development of a suitable missile to deliver a nuclear bomb for targets not yet known.

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