Balance of Power: North Korea Tests Trump’s Patience

North Korea Isn't Backing Down

Otto Warmbier’s death brings home to American households the cruelty and capriciousness of North Korea in a way dozens of missile tests never could.

The 22-year-old student, whose “crime” was to take down a banner in a hotel hallway during a tour of Pyongyang, was returned home last week after 18 months of imprisonment. He died yesterday after suffering unexplained brain damage.

The question now is whether his fate will change Trump’s calculus when dealing with Kim Jong Un.

So far, he has relied on a mixture of diplomacy and saber-rattling to bring Kim to the negotiating table, with a special focus on lobbying China to use more of its leverage over North Korea.

Now the fear in some Asian circles is that the emotional impact of Warmbier’s death could provoke Trump into a military strike similar to the one that followed April’s gas attack in Syria, which killed women and children.

An attack carries immense risks and three more Americans are still held in North Korea. So Trump may have few options but to stick with diplomacy, historically not his strongest suit.

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Warmbier is escorted out of the courtroom after his trial in Pyongyang on March 16, 2015. 
Photographer: Xinhua News Agency/Xinhua News Agency

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