President Donald Trump has come into some criticism for promising to visit “fire and fury” on North Korea if that country persists in threatening the United States and her allies. The president’s critics suggest that the words were unnecessarily provocative and might lead to war when there is still a chance for diplomacy. However, Secretary Of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson echoed the president’s tough talk, suggesting that a new, coordinated message is emerging from the administration designed to impress on Pyongyang the perils of proceeding on the course it has embarked on, according to the Washington Times.

Mattis promises to end the North Korean regime and destroy its people

Mattis, the Marine general turned secretary of defense, was characteristically blunt. He suggested that if North Korea did not turn away from the development of a nuclear arsenal, American action to stop that drive “would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.” Even if an American attack on North Korea did not include the use of nuclear weapons, a war in Korea would lead to the collapse of that country and tribulations of famine and disease that might kill millions. Whether Kim Jong-un will understand the consequences of going to war with the United States is not known at this time.

Tillerson weighs in

Tillerson, who was president of Exxon before he entered government service, was somewhat more measured in his language than his Defense Department counterpart. He suggested that the president’s rhetoric was in language “Kim Jong-un can understand.” The idea is that soft, well vetted diplomatic words have not worked to deter Kim.

It is time to be tough and clear so that even the North Korean leader cannot misinterpret what is being imparted.

What comes next?

The Korean crisis has entered a crossroads. Either Kim will back down, either as a result of a sudden outbreak of sanity or under pressure of his Chinese patrons, or he will in short order go too far, say by launching missiles at Guam, that will require an American response. The latter will be a catastrophe of biblical proportions.

The crisis has been brought about by years of “strategic patience” and neglect of missile defenses on the part of the Obama administration. The tragedy of the situation is that what may be about to come, with the resulting loss of treasure and lives, might have been prevented using sounder policy. Coddling insane dictators and not seeing to an adequate defense are never good policies and the world may now pay a heavy price.