It would be hard to imagine President Obama ever standing only a few feet from the North Korean border and warning its leaders that if they ever used nuclear weapons, “it would be the end of their country.”
Mr. Obama is not the threatening kind. He prefers “soft” power to win over his adversaries. In fact, after North Korea’s May 25 test of a bomb close in size to the one dropped on Hiroshima, he said the US would merely “work with our friends and allies to stand up to this behavior.”
What a contrast to the last Democratic president.
It was President Clinton who actually spoke those threatening “hard power” words – within earshot of North Korean soldiers – in 1993.
At the time, Pyongyang was revving up its nuclear-bomb program.
Mr. Clinton knew something back then that Obama is learning on the job: Tough talk against an enemy is sometimes needed simply to reassure America’s allies that the US will live up to its defense promises. Those commitments include its unique role to provide nuclear deterrence, or promised retaliation, if an ally is attacked.
By his actions and his words, Obama is sending worrisome signals to Japan and South Korea that they might be left alone in a confrontation with North Korea or even perhaps China.