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A more decisive US emerges from Syria, Afghanistan attacks

WITH two devastating air strikes in Syria and Afghanistan, the United States under new President Donald Trump has changed the world’s perception of it as a world power reluctant to get involved too deeply in disputes and hostilities involving many nations today.

The first was a missile attack early this month that destroyed a Syrian airbase from where Syrian planes had earlier flown to bomb a rebel-held town, using chemical weapons that caused the painful death of 86 civilians, including 27 children. The Syrian government “crossed a red line” with its use of poison gas, President Trump charged, and, without asking for any authorization from the US Congress, ordered two US destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea to rain 59 cruise missiles on the airbase.

The second was a US Air Force bombing of a network of caves and tunnels used by the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan last week, using the biggest non-nuclear bomb in America’s arsenal of weapons. With 11 tons of explosives in one package, the Massive Ordinance Air Blast Weapon has been called the “mother of all bombs” – non-nuclear bombs, that is.

President Trump’s predecessor, President Barrack Obama, had been following a different policy for years. He wanted to end America’s over-involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was steadily sending home American ground troops in the two countries.

The US appeared to be following the same policy in Asia, declining to get too involved in conflicts such as in the South China Sea. Our own President Duterte once asked the US why it did not do anything when China began building its islands on several shoals and islets in the sea.

But – as the Syria and Afghanistan bombing raids have shown – that was then. President Trump has now sent a naval attack force led by the carrier USS Carl Vinzon into the East China Sea to join with South Korea and Japan in exercises close to North Korea. This country has repeatedly tested nuclear warheads and long-distance missiles, which the United Nations Security Council has condemned, and it has repeatedly boasted that it will soon have a missile capable of reaching the US mainland.

Trump has had face-to-face talks with China President Xi Jinping, asking China for help in restraining North Korea, its ally. But if China cannot help, he said, the US is ready to go it alone.

A year ago, this might have been considered an empty threat from the US. But times have changed. Trump has not hesitated to destroy a Syrian airbase and a system of tunnels in Afghanistan. It does not look like he will hesitate to destroy the North Korean missile and nuclear bomb test sites, which have surely been pinpointed by its satellites.

While we continue to hope that a peaceful settlement will be found for this dispute, with help from China, we must be prepared if the US, following its actions in the Syria and Afghanistan, will now move with equal decisiveness in our part of the world, especially since it will be responding to an actual and repeated nuclear threat by the North Korea government.

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