Why Trump Was Right to Slam North Korea in State of the Union
Out of the menace, misery and geopolitical morass of North Korea, President Trump brought us a stirring moment Tuesday evening, in his State of the Union address. The president introduced a defector from North Korea, seated in the audience, Ji Seong-ho, and told the story of how Ji "traveled thousands of miles on crutches all across China and Southeast Asia to freedom." Speaking to Ji, Trump said, "I understand you still keep those crutches as a reminder of how far you have come. Your great sacrifice is an inspiration to us all."
Ji Seong-ho, who as a boy suffered the loss of a leg and an arm while trying to survive North Korea's famine of the 1990s, stood up, clearly holding back tears, and held aloft his old wooden crutches.
As Trump summed it up: "Seong-ho's story is a testament to the yearning of every human soul to live in freedom."
It was not solely an inspiring moment, but also an in-your-face warning to North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Un and his dynastic, totalitarian regime. On that score, Trump had plenty more to say. Devoting more than a dozen paragraphs of his speech to North Korea, Trump spelled out that "no regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally than the cruel dictatorship in North Korea."
He drew the connection between Pyongyang's human rights atrocities and the threat of its nuclear missile program: "We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and our allies." He welcomed -- also among the audience -- the grieving family of an American victim of North Korea, Otto Warmbier, describing Warmbier's parents and siblings as "powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world." Warmbier was an American college student who was arrested in early 2016 while on a tourist trip to North Korea. He was sentenced by North Korea to 15 years of hard labor, mortally mistreated in custody and finally released last June to be flown home to die. Trump told the Warmbier family -- and the world -- "we pledge to honor Otto's memory with American resolve."
All this has induced a certain amount of alarm among a number of American commentators who are terrified that Trump might be itching for a hot war with North Korea. A prime example of this panic is Michelle Goldberg's column in the New York Times, headlined "Trump's Boring, Utterly Terrifying Warmongering." By this account, Trump was using Otto Warmbier's death "to propagandize for war" and exploiting the brave defector Ji Seong-ho, a Christian convert who now lives in Seoul, to enlist Trump's "evangelical base" in a "crusade" to sleepwalk into "Armageddon."