Columbia-Greene residents have mixed feelings about the tensions between the United States and North Korea as well as how President Donald Trump is handling the aggressive Asian nation.
Trump spoke in a loud voice during his speech to the United Nations General Assembly this week but he is also carrying a big stick, signing an executive order Thursday that will cut off North Korea from the international banking system and target sanctions at the country’s major industries.
“Today, I announced a new Executive Order with regards to North Korea. We must all do our part to ensure the complete denuclearization of North Korea,” Trump said on Twitter on Friday. “Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before.”
The tenacious North Korea has resisted in the face of U.S. and international sanctions for many years, and though Trump has shown he is willing to enter a fight with the nation that has been testing nuclear weapons and tactical missiles, he said he is still willing to negotiate, with no reciprocating sentiment from North Korea.
U.S. Rep John Faso, R-19, said Trump’s speech to the General Assembly on Wednesday wandered off the diplomatic script but was a necessary stance that needed to be taken.
“It certainly was not the normal diplomatic language that is used, but what he said was the reality. Thirty years of niceties have done nothing,” Faso said. “If North Korea attacks the U.S. it would be ultimately disastrous for its people. [Kim Jong Un] would be wise to comply with international orders.”
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said at a press conference in Catskill on Wednesday he agrees with the need to be strong with nations such as North Korea, but felt the president’s speech before the U.N. that day, in which he said the U.S. would destroy North Korea, was over the top.
Local residents had mixed thoughts on the president’s action on North Korea.
“I think the gentleman running North Korea is arrogant, he thinks he is hot stuff, but he spends money to destroy instead of taking care of his people,” said Donna Reiley, of Chatham. “I think the whole thing is stupid, all the rhetoric right now, Trump is just as arrogant as [Kim Jong Un].”
Reiley said big deal to Trump’s move to widen sanctions against North Korea and said leaders looking to make a name for themselves through war should duke it out in a Homer-esque one-on-one fight.
“They would find a way to agree, because they are cowards,” Reiley said.
Hannah Buquet, of Catskill, said she is concerned about what North Korea has been doing.
“It is a scary world, and you can’t help wondering what will happen next,” Buquet said. “I put my faith in Trump. I saw he increased sanctions against North Korea and I think he is doing the right thing. I also put my faith in his generals and the cabinet.”
Kelly Raver, of Coxsackie, likened Trump and Kim Jong Un to two children on a playground.
“I am very worried. Trump keeps provoking [Kim Jong Un],” Raver said. “Sanctions are usually how we handle things at first and that is probably our best bet right now.”
Shane Martin, of Hudson, said both leaders are blowing hot air.
“I think [Kim Jung Un] is a crazy person, but I do not think he is crazy enough to do anything; he is just pushing buttons,” Martin said. “Trump won’t use military force; what will happen is other nations will deal with North Korea.”
Martin said sanctions will do more harm than good, citing that they have failed to work in the past.
“I think sanctions will provoke [Kim Jong Un] more than do any good,” Martin said. “China is another reason sanctions will not work.”
Officials in Washington point the finger at China, that without China on board sanctions against North Korea cannot work.
Schumer said he believes the U.S. should put more pressure on China, North Korea’s main source of trade, to sanction North Korea, calling such a plan a win-win situation.
“China takes advantage of the U.S. and our intellectual property flows over there,” Schumer said. “We would be cutting off North Korea’s main supplier, but we would also be stopping the flow of intellectuals and technology to China.”
Faso also said sanctions against North Korea have not worked to date because of China’s failure to get on board.
“I would like to see China and Russia restrict oil trade with North Korea which keeps it military going,” Faso said. “From what I have heard in Washington, China is more serious now about sanctioning North Korea than they have in the past.”
After the U.N. conference, China ordered its banks to refrain from new business with North Korea and roll back old loans with the country to adhere to U.N. sanctions that were signed last week.
Faso said he thinks the U.S. has few options at its disposal to force China to create tighter sanctions on its rogue neighbor.
“I think Americans should be concerned. We are reaching a critical juncture and I am hopeful China will follow the U.S. lead on this,” Faso said. “Administrations in both parties have been trying to deal with North Korea and it has not worked. China is the linchpin.”