06.21.17 1:00 AM ET
The horrific death of Otto Warmbier looks like it forced the hand of President Trump.
A day after the 22-year-old student passed away, the American leader, in what may end up as the world’s most consequential tweet, signaled that the United States will soon act on its own to disarm North Korea.
“While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out,” Trump tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “At least I know China tried!”
The announcement, considered in the context of Trump’s other comments on the subject, appears ominous. Trump on April 11 said America would defang North Korea by itself if China did not do so. “North Korea is looking for trouble,” he tweeted then. “If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”
On Tuesday, Trump in effect declared it was time for the U.S. to act on its own.
Many had assumed that Trump would wait until at least the middle of July before going after the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Japanese newspapers reported that the American leader at the early April Mar-a-Lago summit gave his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, 100 days—until July 16—to deal with Pyongyang. That timeframe, by the way, matched up with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s “100-day action plan” on trade, announced at the end of the Trump-Xi meeting.
Yet the outrage over the brutalization of Warmbier looks like it accelerated Trump’s timetable.