To demonstrate the seriousness with which it views the threat of a nuclear strike from North Korea, the Trump administration has ordered a carrier strike group to turn around from a planned visit to Australia and move to a position off the Korean Peninsula. The White House has also leaked that it is contemplating placing nuclear weapons in South Korea and even a program of targeted assassination against Kin Jun-un and the senior North Korean leadership.

All of this saber rattling is not so much directed toward Kim and his cronies, who are likely deaf to such messaging, than to their sponsors in Beijing, China is the one country that has some influence over North Korea because it supports that country economically.

Thus far it has been content to allow Kim to be a headache for the west, especially South Korea and Japan, which serves its purpose of enhancing its position in the western Pacific.

Unfortunately, from Beijing’s point of view, Kim really means it when he declares how much he would like to launch a nuclear strike against the United States. The North Korean leader executes people who fall asleep at meetings by blowing them apart with antiaircraft guns, presumably because it is more impressive than a firing squad.

Trump drove that lesson home when he had dinner with the Chinese president recently. He was able to inform his guest between courses that he had delivered a cruise missile bombardment to Bashar Assad in response to his attacking his own people with Sarin gas.

The obvious implication was that Trump is prepared to serve North Korea a similar lesson if it doesn’t stop developing weapons of Mass Destruction and threatening to use them.

The question arises, has Beijing gotten the message and is it prepared to act. It likely has, and it will be better all around if the Chinese reins in Kim, even if it comes to arranging him to be shot in the back of the head and replaced with someone who is more in touch with objective reality.

The situation can be resolved quietly without resort to high explosives and the risk of starting a Second Korean War and all that implies.

Trump has a lot of marks against him, but unlike his predecessor, he seems to grasp how to deal with bad behavior on the part of dictators. The world has been put on notice. The only question is whether the crisis in Korea will be settled the easy way or the extremely hard way. The answer will define the first term of the Trump presidency.