This past Tuesday North Korea launched a missile that flew in Japanese airspace. This was unprecedented because the previous North Korean missiles (1998 & 2009) that flew over Japan had such a high trajectory that they were not in Japanese airspace. This was talking the talk by Kim Jong un but not firing the fire. Clearly the American and Japanese militaries had calculated the trajectory of Tuesday’s missile as harmless to Japan otherwise they would have tried to shoot it down and launched counter strikes.
If the missile launch was a part of Kim Jong un’s talk, the tweet by President Trump was counter talk.
- Donald J. TrumpVerified account @realDonaldTrump The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!
This was a classic Trumpian response. It could be taken as bluster & bravado or it could be taken seriously. Most of the American media interpreted it as the former. But the really serious & veteran diplomats understood this to be a calm deliberate response to what Kim Jong un had said with his missile launch.
The United States wants North Korea to dismantle & surrender its nuclear weapons program and North Korea wants the United States to essentially leave the Korean Peninsula and also keep the US Navy out of the seas reasonably near Korea. Coming to such an agreement could possibly be easy but ensuring both parties would honor their commitments is nearly impossible.
After all, North Korea had agreed in the past to stop progress of its nuclear program only to reverse course on some excuse & restart the program later. So their commitment on paper means nothing. The United States would need to ensure that North Korea’s ability to resume the program is eliminated. This, at the very least, would require presence of US inspectors in North Korea with unquestioned access to every component of North Korea’s nuclear program. That would be viewed by every one as surrender. Therefore Kim Jong un would never let this get implemented.
The United States, for its part, could renege on commitments as well by re-establishing military ties with South Korea later and by redeploying American land, air & naval forces on & near the Korean peninsula. Kim Jong un is obviously aware of the Gaddafi precedent.
This is as simple as it gets and it shows why there is no possibility of a real agreement with North Korea without force.
The only other option is stay the course and that is the option both North Korea & China believe America will choose. This means continuing intense financial sanctions and a covert technical war to frustrate & delay North Korea’s progress towards a nuclear weapon carrying ICBM capable of reaching American homeland. This also means eventually accepting North Korea as a nuclear weapons power with the capability to attack American homeland just as America has accepted Russian & Chinese capabilities to do so.
People who recommend such an acceptance of a nuclear weaponized North Korea forget the essential difference between Russia, China and North Korea.Yesterday’s Soviet Union and today’s Russia never have in the past and will never in the future gamble on a nuclear war with the United States. China will never gamble on this either.
But North Korea has demonstrated its willingness to do so in the past and will get even more willing in the future. North Korea has no interest in attacking America but it has every interest in using its ability to do so to neutralize American response to its blackmail of South Korea and Japan for large monetary support of its failing economy. North Korea, we believe, has great interest in blackmailing rich countries around the world by threatening to sell nuclear weapons to their enemies and/or to non-state entities that are at war with these countries. For the right amount of money, North Korea could sell its nuclear technology & even weapons to very rich countries around the world. Their bet would be that America would look the other way because of North Korean ability to respond to an American attack with nuclear ICBMs against America.
The first line in President Trump’s tweet tells North Korea he understands the game and no amount of talk will persuade him to tolerate that eventual possibility.
So talking is not the answer to North Korea. Something else will have to be the answer. But what, when and in what progression?
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