President Trump faces a mountain of perilous political and national security issues in the months to come on a number of fronts, both here and abroad.
First and foremost, North Korea has become far more threatening and belligerent lately, stepping up its nuclear ballistic missile threats with its most ominous warning this week: the U.S. “will receive more ‘gift packages’ as long as it relies on reckless provocations and futile attempts” against their country.
Han Tae-song, North Korea’s ambassador to the U.N., at a disarmament conference in Geneva, lobbed a stinging fusillade of threats two days after his nation detonated its sixth, and largest, nuclear test explosion to date.
“I am proud of saying that just two days ago on the 3rd of September DPRK [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] successfully carried out a hydrogen bomb test” for [an] intercontinental ballistic missile, he told the forum.
“The recent self-defense measures by my country, DPRK, are a ‘gift package’ addressed to none other than the U.S.,” Mr. Han added.
At the same time, he flatly rejected any suggestions by Mr. Trump’s national security advisers to begin negotiations to persuade the Communist dictatorship to halt its weapons tests.
As for plans by the Trump administration, the U.N. and North Korea’s neighbors, to impose tougher economic sanctions on the DPRK, Mr. Han dismissed them out of hand.
“Pressure or sanctions will never work on my country,” he said. “The DPRK will never under any circumstances put its nuclear deterrence on the negotiating table.”
Nevertheless, the U.S. and its allies sent a stern warning this week that new sanctions will be imposed.
“We look forward to working with our partners in the [Security] Council with regard to a new resolution that will put some of the strongest sanctions possible on the DPRK,” said U.S. disarmament ambassador Robert Wood.
“It can no longer be business as usual with this regime,” he said.
Mr. Trump upped the ante on Monday, after North Korea’s latest nuclear test, saying that he agreed “in principle” to end the warhead weight limit on South Korea’s missiles.
And Defense Secretary James Mattis read a statement Sunday saying, “Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response — a response both effective and overwhelming.”
Meantime, a pile of domestic troubles were growing on Capitol Hill as lawmakers returned from their long August recess, including immigration, raising the debt limit and passing a budget to avoid a government shutdown.
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump announced he was phasing out the Obama-era’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program [DACA] that allows work permits for an estimated 800,000 young, undocumented immigrants who were very young children or infants when they were brought to the U.S. by their parents.
Virtually all of them are in high school, college or the work force. Thousands are pursuing bachelor degrees or higher. They own cars and pay taxes. And many have begun businesses of their own.
But in a series of contradictory statements that followed, the president said he loved and admired these so-called “dreamers” and gave Congress six months to come up with a plan to “fix” the problem, presumably including a way to allow them to remain in our country.
“We love the dreamers We think the dreamers are terrific,” he said last week.
And in a tweet fired off Tuesday night, he called on the Congress to “legalize” the dreamers and said he would “revisit the issue” if lawmakers did not enact a plan of their own.
Clearly Mr. Trump is deeply conflicted over his decision to deport these young people, fearing he would anger his base of support if he allows them to remain in the U.S.
“As late as one hour before the decision was to be announced, administration officials privately expressed concern that Mr. Trump might not fully grasp the details of the steps he was about to take, and when he discovered their full impact, would change his mind,” The New York Times reported.
On other fronts, Mr. Trump was planning to end a free-trade agreement with South Korea, a move that is opposed by the director of his National Economic Council and his national security adviser.
With North Korea threatening it’s neighbors with nuclear annihilation, including our ally in Seoul, this is no time to be undercutting South Korea’s economy.
Mr. Trump’s time would be far better spent focusing on our own economy where job growth was a tepid 156,000 last month and unemployment rose.
New car and truck sales fell in August, construction fell, too, by 0.6 percent in July, and fewer Americans bought homes.
Little wonder, then, that the Gallup Poll shows his job approval rate at a dismal 38 percent.
• Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.