Chris Cillizza's incredibly naive column on North Korea

CNN Politics Reporter 
Chris Cillizza published an incredibly ignorant column on Wednesday.  In response to a recent missile launch by North Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said: "North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile. The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment."  Cillizza lambasted Tillerson:


"That's a total of 23 words, if you're counting. Twenty-three words that leave you more confused when you get to the end of them than when you started. Is Tillerson trying to talk tough? Or is he refusing to give North Korea the attention he thinks they're trying to grab in advance of the US-China meeting? Somewhere in between? Neither? Both?"

But there is nothing confusing about Tillerson's statement.  What he is saying is "Look, we've been watching the North Korean's continue to refine and improve their nuclear programs for decades.  We've tried sanctions, diplomatic meetings, the Agreed Framework, the Six Party Talks, disrupting telecommunications, contemplated disrupting remittances from Japan, getting China to take action, stopping trade, condemning the launches and look what's happened.  We're sick and tired of talking, it's time to take action."  

Personally, I've never seen a clearer remark.  Check out this link, which chronicles North Korea's nuclear weapons development since 1985, to see how badly past tactics have failed.


If Chris can't understand that than he can't understand that. However I'm shocked that as reputable a source as CNN Politics would publish something so ignorant.  Quoting further: 


"It's Ernest Hemingway but for complicated and delicate matters of foreign policy. It's, in a (hyphenated) word, a head-scratcher."


Chris is an incredible journalist, responsible for creating and running the famous Washington Post blog “The Fix” before starting at CNN on April 3rd.  He should stick to objective analysis and avoid infusing a political spin in his reports.  To his credit he does admit: 


"Tillerson's statement may be best understood as a sort of "the time for talking is over, the time for action is here" sentiment that is in keeping with the tough talk coming from Trump."
Yes, that's exactly what he meant.  That's what Chris should have written the column on, although I know that doesn't go along well with CNN's mission to "makes news the star."


He further degrades Tillerson because the statement:
"Offers zero guidance as to what the US response will be." 

1. The Trump/Tillerson strategy has been to keep matters confidential as opposed to letting the the whole world know what were going to do.  


2. It's best to keep them guessing.  Poker legend Chris the Money Maker didn't get that nickname by showing his cards.


3. It’s possible he doesn’t know yet


Furthermore, Chris states: 
"Pyongyang wants Washington's acceptance as a nuclear power -- and to be dismissed in this way will be a blow, noted CNN's Paula Hancocks in Seoul."

Well Chris, if dismissing a perpetrator of mass destruction who wants both of us dead from being a nuclear power is "a blow", then keep swinging, Rex.  

My View

President Obama’s clear statement in 2013 discounted the North Korean’s ability to miniaturize nuclear bombs and suggested we give the North Koreans more negotiating time.  According to Bloomberg:  “Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s strategy of imposing sanctions, pressuring China and setting conditions for North Korea talks didn’t stop Pyongyang from accelerating its nuclear and ballistic missiles programs.”  Furthermore: “In his 2017 New Year’s address, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claimed his nation was in the "last stage" of preparations to test-fire an inter-continental ballistic missile, the type necessary to reach as far as North America.”  In that light, Rex's statement is very refreshing.  
When the USSR dissolved, North Korea no longer saw reason to adhere to Western non-proliferation efforts and withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  The Pentagon should have destroyed North Korea’s nuclear facilities in their infant stages like Israel did in Iraq in 1981.  


Relying on China has proven facile, as they have diplomatic relations with both the North and South and strategically benefit from the divided peninsula.  This is similar to how the Tang dynasty benefited from a Korean peninsula divided in three parts.  


The North Korean threat compounds the Iranian threat, as North Korea accounted for 40% of all arms imports during the Iran-Iraq war.  There is a plethora of evidence that Iran and North Korea have shared information on nuclear technology.  Iran has missiles inscribed with “Israel must be wiped out” in Hebrew. 


Granted, numerous officials have said the most effective way to deal with North Korea is to accept that it has nuclear weapons and seek its cooperation in preventing them from being proliferated.  


But North Korea isn’t a rational actor. This is a nasty regime that has no regard for human life or non-proliferation.  They are a terrorist state threatening preemptive nuclear attacks on the United States and its allies.  Their short-, medium-, and long-range missile testing represents a clear and present nuclear danger to the United States. We simply cannot allow them to attain the means to our destruction.  


Like Kennedy told the Soviets to withdraw their missiles from Cuba or we’d do it ourselves, the US needs to make it clear that it will be an existential moment for North Korea if they don’t end their nuclear program.  The US withdrew their missiles from Turkey as a concession to the USSR and similarly we should withdraw our missiles from South Korea if North Korea is willing to comply.  But the Soviets were, for all their flaws,  rational.  Kim Jong-un isn’t.
Would you want your children to live in a world in which North Korea has as advanced a nuclear weapons program as Russia?

We need to call for an immediate halt to North Korea’s nuclear program.  If they don’t oblige, we must take unilateral action and destroy all of their nuclear weapons, war heads, launching bases, submarines and if were lucky, Kim Jong-un, in a single afternoon.  This move no doubt poses danger, but inaction poses an even bigger threat.

The Secretary of State has indicated the US is no longer messing around.   Thank god we have Rex Tillerson, and not Chris Cizzilla, running the State Department.  




Reader's can email questions to  To understand his full opinion on North Korea's nuclear program, please see this column