On a trip to Seoul, South Korea, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ruled out negotiating with North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs, saying for the first time that the Trump administration might consider pre-emptive action “if they elevate the threat of their weapons program” to an unacceptable level.”
- Tensions in the region are high as North Korea is making observable progress toward an intercontinental ballistic missile.
- China are still enraged over South Korea’s deployment of an American missile defence system.
- Tillerson opening the door to military action adds fuel to the fire.
In a bid to become a wartime president to increase his chances for re-election, Trump is flirting with war with North Korea and the deaths of hundreds of thousands if not millions of North and South Korean innocent civilians.
The current regime and military might in the North is not like your Grandfather’s Korean War. That country has been preparing for a doomsday battle over the peninsula for over the past sixty years.
On Trump’s part, this is intentional. Embroiling the United States in another war rewards traditional corporate allies, defence contractors. Any scrutiny of Trump will be deemed unpatriotic and against our service men and women, just like in the lead up to the Iraq War.
The press will have no time, nor will the American people have the attention span, for focusing on Trump’s lack of organizational skills, his disastrous budget, his narcissistic indulgences, corrupt practices while we bomb Pyongyang.
For the Trump administration, engaging in a war with North Korea is the best thing that could ever happen to them, and perhaps one of the worst events for the world as a whole.
North Korea is behaving very badly. They have been “playing” the United States for years. China has done little to help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 17, 2017
On Friday, after his visit to the Demilitarized Zone, Mr. Tillerson returned to Seoul for meetings about a problem that has quickly reached crisis proportions because of a series of recent, and successful, nuclear and missile tests.
Tillerson’s comments specifically reject a return to the bargaining table in an effort to buy time by stopping North Korea’s accelerating testing program. “Let me be very clear: the policy of strategic patience has ended,” Mr. Tillerson said – referring to the term used by the Obama administration which aimed at waiting out the North Koreas while increasing sanctions and covert operations.
Kim Jong-un, said on New Year’s Day that North Korea was in the “final stage” of preparation for the first launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States.
Negotiations “can only be achieved by denuclearizing, giving up their weapons of mass destruction,” Tillerson said — a step to which the North committed in 1992, and again in subsequent accords, but has always violated. “Only then will we be prepared to engage them in talks.”
“We’re exploring a new range of diplomatic, security and economic measures. All options are on the table,” Tillerson said, adding that while the U.S. did not want military conflict, threats “would be met with an appropriate response.” He went on to say, “If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action, that option is on the table”.
This inconsistency in tone could be a signal to the Chinese before he arrives in Beijing on Saturday, signalling diplomatic intentions in a region where US commitment is in doubt.
That time the Secretary of State threatened war with North Korea and didn’t bring any American reporters along… https://t.co/pgzpwMV8aJ
— Susan Glasser (@sbg1) March 17, 2017
Yun Byung-se, the South Korean foreign minister seemed open to the idea of military options, a deviation from usual policy – although he is unlikely to remain in his position for much longer as elections for a new government will be held in early May
“We have various policy methods available,” said Yun, “If imposing diplomatic pressure is a building, military deterrence would be one of the pillars of this building. We plan to have all relevant nations work together more closely than in the past and make sure that North Korea, feeling pain for its wrongdoings, changes its strategy.”
Military action has been ruled out in the past as the North has artillery lined up to fire on Seoul, where a population of 20 million lives just 30 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone that separates the nation.
So far, diplomatic engagement and sanctions have failed to convince North Korea to halt it’s nuclear weapons program. Military threats are beginning to feel like one of the few remaining options for dealing with the rogue nation.
Hahm Chai-bong, the president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul said, “At this point, it’s almost the inevitable next step in the escalation. The only thing is that we’ve never been here before. The U.S. and South Korea have never put this much pressure on North Korea or responded in such a direct way before.”
Several government officials in Seoul are pushing for the return of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea. It would likely come down to a question of who blinks first, Hahm said. “And we always blink first because we have so much more to lose.”
With nothing taken off the table, Tillerson referred to a “number of steps” the US could take, including embracing much more vigorous enforcement of sanctions, ramping up missile defences, cutting off North Korea’s oil, intensifying the cyberwar program and striking the North’s known missile sites.
A way forward
William J. Perry, who was secretary of defense under President Bill Clinton, said in Beijing on Friday that the Trump administration would need to offer North Korea security assurances if it wanted to avoid entangling itself further in this spiral of confrontation.
Previous administrations were banking on a collapse, but Perry thinks otherwise. “I see very little prospect of a collapse,” he said. “For eight years in the Obama administration and eight years in the Bush administration, they were expecting that to happen. As a consequence, their policies were not very effective. I would think that the United States and other countries as well should stop expecting a collapse in North Korea.”
American lawmakers must understand that the North Korean leaders value their ability to stay in power more than they do the state of the economy. Thus attempting to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear programme is highly unlikely to be successful.
So to summarize: Sec of State Tillerson threatened North Korea with escalation to a nuclear war, then took a nap because he was exhausted.
— Amy Siskind (@Amy_Siskind) March 17, 2017