The standoff between North Korea and the United States over the hermit kingdom’s nuclear program has long been guided by the narrative that the United States has no viable military option to end it as any attempt to do so would result in unavoidable carnage for South Korea, with Seoul in easy firing range of the border.
The lack of options has left the Trump administration with an inherited headache that has troubled many previous presidencies. All the while Kim Jong-un is coming closer to his goal of building an intercontinental ballistic missile that is capable of reaching the United States.
This week, North Korea seemed to come closer to that goal by testing a weapon that analysts said could potentially hit Alaska.
The heart of South Korea is shockingly close to the border. “You have this massive agglomeration of everything that is important in South Korea — government, business and the huge population — and all of it is in this gigantic megalopolis that starts 30 miles from the border and ends 70 miles from the border,” said Robert E. Kelly, a professor of political science at Pusan National University in South Korea. “In terms of national security, it’s just nuts.”
Did #NorthKorea finally test an ICBM? https://t.co/nDi5XSx8NX pic.twitter.com/NKcp8TBjlJ
— Joseph Dempsey (@JosephHDempsey) July 4, 2017
In response, the Trump administration has been quick to threaten military action with Gen. Vincent K. Brooks conducting missile exercises with South Korea. Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said her country’s “considerable military forces” were an option. “We will use them if we must, but we prefer not to have to go in that direction,” she told the Security Council.
The military options are particularly harrowing now. The most limited action even risk disastrous consequences for South Korea with the North able to retaliate with the thousands of artillery pieces that it has positioned on the border.
Though the arsenal is of limited range and could be destroyed in days, the United States defense secretary, Jim Mattis, recently warned that if North Korea used it, it “would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”
A pre-emptive strike would be unlikely to successfully eradicate North Korea’s options as some of their facilities are located deep in mountain caves or underground, and many missiles are located on mobile launchers.
Any attack from the US and North Korea said it would immediately respond with nuclear missiles. Whether he would do this or not is an exercise in strategic game theory as Mr. Kim surely knows that the US would retaliate with their own nuclear weapons.
Any attack upon North Korea will escalate to full blown annihilation. The reason is straightforward: North Korea will be fighting for its survival: Politically, culturally and socially. And survival means ultimately to the last man.
Periodic surgical strikes at an early stage on Iran’s development of nuclear capability actually did work. It won’t work here.
The differences: Firstly, the great unknown – China’s reaction. Secondly, the great known – North Korea already has the nuclear capability to reach Seoul and Osan AFB.
The solution is China. Disarmament of NK’s nuclear weaponry can be done safely only by China. It is also China’s responsibility. The US has obligations to use their unique power in certain instances. They are already sacrificing blood and treasure in too many places where others should be taking the laboring ore.
In non-military ways, the US should incentivize China to take action against its ally. NK is already the most sanctioned nation in the world. Positive incentives to China is the best way to prod China into action. Many avenues are open to negotiations. Trump has stumbled twice in damaging our relations with China (vis-a-vis Taiwan and unwittingly helped China’s power in APAC by foolishly withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It’s time their offer carrots to one of their most import trade partners.
North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life? Hard to believe that South Korea…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2017
….and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 4, 2017
China could reign in North Korea before it is too late but only after exacting substantial demands from the US as well as South Korea and possibly Japan as well. Back door deals are often confined to “secret” letters of agreement –such as our deal to remove missiles in Turkey during the Cuban missile crisis. For example, a deal to not pressure China on the building of it’s new islands in what had been international waters and other concessions could be quietly and privately worked.
Trump really needs a war, just like George W Bush did. All he needs is a pretext good enough, along with Fox “News” et al. propaganda support, to blame North Korea for some terrorist attack on US territory.
Right now, China is bankrolling North Korea. If U.S. taxpayers pick-up the tab, the Chinese will clearly have their cake and eat it too.
North Korean missile test pics — once again not launched from a TEL, but remote stand pic.twitter.com/4et2pXs1xN
— Chad O'Carroll (@chadocl) July 4, 2017
China may be the only diplomatic, peaceful answer to DPRK’s nuclear build-up. Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s arrogant ignorance and bumbling of anything resembling a foreign policy has nearly eliminated that possibility. The “only I can do it, believe me” man has endangered the US and the rest of the world with a potential for a devastating war. Trump can posture and threaten with ease since the impact to US lives is relatively minimal. In contrast, the hundreds of thousands or millions of Chinese, South Korean, Filipino, Japanese and other south-eastern countries certainly have more at stake than ego and political showmanship.
While nuclear disarmament may be desirable, it is unlikely to happen anytime soon for any nation. How quickly do you think the US would be to forego its nuclear arsenal? Not anytime soon! Context is also required–when was the last North Korean military strike beyond its borders?
The US may not like North Korea and they certainly don’t like the US. But are they really ready to fabricate another excuse for a war based upon the ranting’s or posturing of a lunatic? The problem – just like the answer – is complex and requires advanced intellect to solve. This is not a WWE smackdown, real lives are at stake. It’s time for this administration to grow up and deal with this threat in a mature and responsible manner.