The president is threatening to erect new trade barriers against China just when he needs its aid to rein in the Kim regime

For years, Americans have misunderstood the nuclear threat from North Korea, misjudging how to address it. They have also misunderstood the bilateral trade deficits with China, overestimating their importance. Today, as President Donald Trump threatens new trade barriers against China, on which the United States must depend to help rein in an increasingly dangerous North Korea, these two issues have become closely connected. Yet US officials seem no closer to figuring them out.

The stakes obviously are much higher regarding North Korea, with US-South Korean joint military exercises this week aggravating already-high tensions. If the US and North Korea do get into a military confrontation, there is a real risk that nuclear weapons will be used. Even a conventional war would likely be catastrophic.

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