A year ago, Donald Trump said he "would have no problem speaking to" North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Where is that Donald Trump now? Instead we have sabre-rattling Trump, along with Vice President Pence and others on the national-security squad.
Yes, Kim—like his father and grandfather before him—is a tyrant, writes Sheldon Richman. But when has that ever stopped an American president from dealing with—and often befriending—a ruler? Never. American presidents have allied with some of the most ruthless heads of states of the 20th century. Kim and North Korea, therefore, are not unique in that respect.
But they are unique in another way, notes Richman. The U.S. government fought an undeclared war alongside South Korea's own tyrant, Syngman Rhee, against North Korea and Kim's grandfather, Kim Il-sung, from 1950 to 1953 because President Harry Truman didn't want the Republicans saying he "lost Korea." The U.S. Air Force obliterated the country through carpet bombing after Truman decided atomic bombs were not practical, in contrast to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, a few years earlier. The bombing and shooting stopped with an armistice, but no peace treaty was ever signed to formally end the war. For decades, the North Korean government has sought that treaty and a nonaggression pact with the U.S. government, but the requests always fell on deaf ears.