North Korea deserves more media attention

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Beijing on Saturday to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping to discuss how to contend with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, as well as trade and investment.

Tillerson’s trip provided an opportunity for the media to focus, if only momentarily, on the biggest issue getting the least amount of coverage under the Trump administration.

President Donald Trump generates a massive amount of news. Look at the past week: national anthem protests, the Senate’s failure to repeal Obamacare, a Trump-backed Senate candidate’s loss in a GOP primary in Alabama, mounting criticism over the federal government’s response to the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico ...

The president had something to say about all of them, generating news stories about his personality on top of actual breaking news like a Cabinet member resigning over the use of chartered planes or his son-in-law failing to disclose the he used a personal email account to conduct official White House business.

So, it’s no surprise that the president’s escalating war of words with North Korea is so easily lost in the shuffle. At one point during the week, the president tweeted “they won’t be around much longer,” leading North Korea’s foreign minister to interpret it as an act of war.

Tillerson helped cool the rhetoric, acknowledging for the first time that the administration is in direct contact with Pyongyang over its missile and nuclear tests, the The New York Times reported. Those communications are not being mediated by China, Tillerson added.

Tillerson’s revelation is welcome news. Just two days earlier, retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis, the retired supreme allied commander of NATO said America’s chances of going to war with North Korea are the highest they’ve been since the end of the Korean War.

Speaking during a panel at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perry World House, Stavridis put the odds of a full-on war at 10 percent and the chances of a less catastrophic conflict (without the inolvement of nukes) at 20 to 30 percent, according to Newsweek’s John Haltiwanger. Even a lesser confict could lead to 500,000 to a million deaths, Stavridis said.

On Friday, the White House announced that Trump will travel to five Asian nations, three of which play central roles in the crisis with North Korea: Japan, South Korea and China. China is considered the key to solving the dilemma. As North Korea’s largest trading partner, it can apply pressure from an economic standpoint to persuade Kim Jong Un’s regime to de-escalate tensions.

Meanwhile, a contingent of soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division is preparing for a nine-month deployment to South Korea. The soldiers will replace personnel from the 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kan.

Because of the president’s penchant for stirring controversy, developments on the Korean peninsula can fly under the radar. Local reporters covering military installations are helping the rest of the country keep tabs on an underreported story.


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