What President Trump could mean for North Korea

WASHINGTON, DC — As the world adjusts to America's newest commander in chief, uncertainties about what policies Donald Trump will pursue — toward North Korea in particular — remain.

"Trying to predict President Trump's policy toward Asia, or any global region for that matter, is difficult if not impossible," Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow of Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation, told Business Insider.

"We are in uncharted territory because Trump has not articulated an Asian policy nor does he even have an identifiable cadre of Asian advisors," Klingner added.

Echoing that sentiment, David Straub, former State Department Korea director and associate director of the Korea Program at Stanford University, told Business Insider that Trump knows "next to nothing" about the region.

"He didn't say very much about North Korea during the campaign, and what he did say was incoherent," Straub told Business Insider.

Notably, while on the campaign trail, Trump said he would hold a summit with the North's reckless leader Kim Jong Un over hamburgers.

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North Korea tests missiles
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North Korea tests missiles
A demonstration of a new rocket engine for the geo-stationary satellite at the Sohae Space Center n this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 20, 2016. KCNA via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
A passenger watches a TV screen broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing three ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast, at a railway station in Seoul, South Korea, September 5, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A fire drill of ballistic rockets by Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force is pictured in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 6, 2016. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
A test-fire of strategic submarine-launched ballistic missile is seen in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang August 25, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A test launch of ground-to-ground medium long-range ballistic rocket Hwasong-10 in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on June 23, 2016. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS.
FILE PHOTO - An underwater test-firing of a strategic submarine ballistic missile is seen in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on April 24, 2016. KCNA/File Photo via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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"It's clear he knows next to nothing about the area and the problems there, and it will take him and his administration a long time to get up to speed," Straub said.

"I can't see Trump negotiating a denuclearization agreement with North Korea," Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told Business Insider.

"And after Libya and what I anticipate will be the collapse of the agreement with Iran, I don't see any appetite in North Korea either."

Trump also said he would remove US troops from host nations throughout Asia and Europe if these countries did not pay their share of the costs.

Straub added that Trump should focus on North Korean threats instead of "complaining about how much our allies South Korea and Japan are paying for the upkeep of US forces in their country."

"The fact is that they already pay a great deal of those costs, and that it would cost more to move them to the US than keep them where they are, not to mention the fact that strategic stability in Northeast Asia is very much in US interests as well as in the interests of our allies," Straub said.

'Bewilderment' and 'uncertainty' will be the keywords for the assessing the 2016 presidential election and the path ahead.

In regards to China, Pyongyang's closest ally and the region's most powerful nation, Trump has said he would pressure Chinese president Xi Jinping to address North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

"Given Trump's statements on trade policy with China, it is difficult to imagine how he can get China to do what he wants," Eric Gomez, a policy analyst for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, told Business Insider.

"Despite the instability North Korea causes, Beijing is willing to keep supporting it so long as it can be a hedge against US military power in the region. China probably has the best chance of pressuring North Korea on the nuclear weapons issue, but right now it's difficult to see how Trump would get Beijing to change its current position," Gomez added.

Similarly, Melik Kaylan, co-author of "The Russia-China Axis," says that Trump will most likely be unable to adjust Beijing's stance.

"China uses North Korea as a lever to distract its regional rivals," Kaylan said. "If Trump is true to his words, he will try to confront China on a series of issues. China will play the North Korea card."

"Trump will ultimately fall back on the alliances as they exist," Kaylan added.

Straub notes that Trump may even follow the same policy carried out by President Obama when dealing with North Korea.

"If Trump is guided by our government experts and institutions, he will eventually follow roughly the same policy as President Obama, i.e. ratchet up US and international pressure on North Korea to give up nuclear weapons each time it commits a provocation, at the same time bolstering our missile and other defenses against the North and preparing for all manner of contingencies," Straub said.

And while the current administration has slapped Pyongyang with several rounds of heavy sanctions, the Hermit Kingdom's brazen rocket launches and nuclear detonations continue.

A timeline of North Korea's missile tests so far in 2016 »

"This year, Pyongyang successfully conducted two nuclear tests, an intercontinental ballistic missile test, breakthrough successes with its road-mobile intermediate-range missile and submarine-launched ballistic missile, re-entry vehicle technology, a new solid-fuel rocket engine, and an improved liquid-fuel ICBM engine," Klingner told Business Insider in a previous interview.

This year alone, Kim Jong Un has carried out 25 ballistic missile tests and two nuclear tests.

What's more, during one week in October, the North launched what are thought to be two Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missiles — one on October 15 and another on October 19.

"This twice-in-a-week stuff also suggests that they must have an inventory of these things that they're willing and able to expend to advance the program," Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider in a previous interview.

25 PHOTOS
North Korea's obsession with huge, intricate buildings
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North Korea's obsession with huge, intricate buildings

Entering the capital city of Pyongyang, visitors pass through the Arch of Reunification. The two women holding a conjoined North and South Korea symbolize supreme leader Kim Il Sung's vision for the two countries.

(Photo by Thomas Imo/Photothek via Getty Images)

Immediately, visitors are struck by the Workers' Party Monument. The outer belt reads, "Long live the Workers' Party of Korea, the organizer and guide of all victories of the Korean people!"

(Photo by Mark Edward Harris/Getty Images)

Downtown Pyongyang's skyline is punctuated by the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel, currently the tallest abandoned building in the world. It hasn't had any work done on it since 1992.

(Photo via REUTERS/Bobby Yip)

On the other side of the city, the 558-feet-tall Juche Tower looms above the Taedong River.

(Photo by Tim Johnson/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)

Some of North Korea's most impressive (and intimidating) architecture lives in the city center, such as the sprawling Manyongdae Children's Palace. It features two "arms" meant to imitate a mother's embrace.

(Photo by NK News/Getty Images)

North Korea doesn't have enough of its own electricity, so at night the entire country goes pitch black. What little remains goes toward illuminating a picture of the country's founder, Kim Il-Sung.

(Photo via REUTERS/Damir Sagolj)

These buildings wouldn't be possible without the thousands of laborers who are forced to work long hours to build them.

(Photo via REUTERS/Damir Sagolj)

The conditions are often poor, if not downright treacherous.

(Photo via REUTERS/Damir Sagolj)

Much of the country's architecture is meant to honor North Korea's leaders, Kim Il-Sung, who led between 1972 and 1994, and Kim Jong Il, who followed Sung until his own death in 2011.

(Photo via REUTERS/KCNA)

The two men are proudly memorialized all around Pyongyang, most obviously at the People's Grand Assembly Hall.

(Photo via REUTERS/Damir Sagolj)

Nearby is the Fatherland Liberation War Museum, which celebrates Korea's victory over the imperialist American forces during the Korean War.

(Photo by Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images)

One building in central Pyongyang reads, "The great comrades Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il will be with us forever."

(Photo via REUTERS/Damir Sagolj)

Disregarding the blatant propaganda, there are many aspects of North Korean architecture that are genuinely impressive. The metro station is among the most ornate in the world.

(Photo via REUTERS/Damir Sagolj)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, North Korea is also home to the largest sports arena in the world, May Day Stadium.

(Photo via REUTERS/KCNA)

Filled to capacity, it's capable of holding 150,000 people. Most often, it's used for the annual Mass Games, which pay tribute to the country's history.

(Photo credit should read Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Amid the bleakness of everyday life, people also manage to find time to have fun at the Munsu Water Park.

(Photo via REUTERS/KCNA)

Science also plays a big role in North Korea. The Sci-Tech Complex, for example, was built in the shape of an atom and opened in early 2015.

(Photo via REUTERS/KCNA)

The country's leader, Kim Jong Un, has said he hopes the center will help "advance the establishment of a rich and powerful fatherland through the locomotive of science and technology."

(Photo via REUTERS/KCNA)

The structure joins the Mirae Scientists Street, which North Korea wants to use as its hub for becoming a global force in innovation.

(Photo via REUTERS/KCNA)

Some apartment buildings sport solar panels.

(Photo via REUTERS/Staff)

Many of the buildings stand out for their bold color palettes and industrial feel.

(Photo via REUTERS/Damir Sagolj)

But others, like the Wonsan Baby Home and Orphanage, opt instead for bright pastels.

(Photo via REUTERS/KCNA)

Completed in June of 2015, the home is spread across several floors. Its blues and yellows stand in stark relief to the concrete that dominates so much of North Korea's landscape.

(Photo via REUTERS/KCNA)

Whatever bright spots there may be, from far away the skyline clearly reveals North Korea's obsession with power and might.

(Photo credit ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)

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Hours after the aforementioned dual missile test, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met with South Korea's minister of defense, Han Min Koo, at the Pentagon.

"Make no mistake, any attack on America or our allies will not only be defeated, but any use of nuclear weapons will be met with an overwhelming and effective response," Carter said during the press conference.

"The United States remains committed to defending our allies against any threat with the full spectrum of American military might," Carter added.

One step taken to further defend the region amid the North's missile tests, is the formal agreement to equip Seoul with THAAD, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system.

We spent a day with THAAD, read more about how this system works »

Negotiations to deploy a THAAD battery to South Korea have been ongoing since President Park Geun-Hye'sOctober 2015 visit to the White House.

And despite the recent scandal over Park's murky relationship with a family friend, which could result in possible impeachment or resignation, US commitment to deploy THAAD to the region "continues forward."

"Our THAAD deployment continues," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told Business Insider during a press briefing on Tuesday. "The effort to do that as quickly as possible continues forward, and I am not aware of any plans to alter that at this point."

Earlier this week, Park announced in a brief televised speech that she was willing to leave office early and have parliament decide her fate. If Park is unseated, an election must be held within 60 days to find her successor.

"I don't think THAAD deployment will change unless a new administration in South Korea — even a progressive one — thinks little of providing for the country's national defense," Victor Cha, senior adviser and Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider.

In November, US Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, the commander of US Forces Korea, said deployment was scheduled in eight to 10 months.

Pentagon on THAAD deployment: 'We want to do this as quickly as possible' »

Looking to the future, experts agree that Trump's policies will not be known for many months after he transitions to the highest office in the land.

"North Korea will of course seek to use that time to its own advantage, which will not be to ours," Straub said.

"'Bewilderment' and 'uncertainty' will be the keywords for the assessing the 2016 presidential election and the path ahead," Klingner said.

12 PHOTOS
Kim Jong Un looks thrilled visiting farms
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Kim Jong Un looks thrilled visiting farms
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 13, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspecting Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810 at an undisclosed location in North Korea. / AFP / KCNA / KCNA (Photo credit should read KCNA/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the Kosan Combined Fruit Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 18, 2016.KCNA via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 13, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810 at an undisclosed location in North Korea. / AFP / KCNA / KCNA (Photo credit should read KCNA/AFP/Getty Images)
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 13, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810 at an undisclosed location in North Korea. / AFP / KCNA / KCNA (Photo credit should read KCNA/AFP/Getty Images)
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 13, 2016 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (L) inspecting Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810 at an undisclosed location in North Korea. / AFP / KCNA / KCNA (Photo credit should read KCNA/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un provides field guidance to Farm No. 1116 under KPA Unit 810, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang September 13, 2016. KCNA/via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 18, 2016. KCNA/ via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Taedonggang Pig Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 18, 2016. KCNA/ via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 18, 2016. KCNA/ via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the Taedonggang Combined Fruit Farm in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 18, 2016. KCNA/ via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA.
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NOW WATCH: Meet THAAD: America's answer to North Korean threats

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