It was only five weeks ago when we said “Get Ready” on the Fourth of July. The US military is not just ready; they are “locked and loaded” as President Trump said on Friday. And now the entire world is ready for a major event. Actually calling it merely as a “major event” seems so understated, right? After all, “catastrophic consequences” was the term Secretary of Defense Mattis used a few weeks ago.
The really big statement of the week came neither from President Trump nor from Secretary of Defense Mattis. It came from the mild mannered Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who said”… stopping where they are today is not acceptable to us“.
This means all the talk or proposals about ratcheting down tensions by establishing a freeze on future testing & development by North Korea are nonstarters. Trump’s America is not willing to tolerate a nuclear-weaponized North Korea. It is simply too great a risk for America & the American people. This is not a new position. Every president since Senior Bush has made the same declaration. The big difference is that President Trump is ready to act on it.
This demand is a nonstarter for Kim Jong Un. Development of offensive nuclear capability that can hit America is Kim’s absolute goal because it is the only way he can be sure of his survival. This has been his & his father’s single-minded pursuit for over 25 years. He will not give it up without being absolutely forced to do so.
The rest of the world doesn’t matter. Because Kim knows every other nation is against him. Russia made it clear this week that they cannot accept a nuclear-weapons in the hands of North Korea. Even China or especially China wants to de-nuclearize North Korea.
Kim knows his biggest long term threat is from China and not from any other country. He also knows China’s greater risk is from a pro-US regime in North Korea. That is why Kim has been creating a situation in which China is forced to defend his regime against the danger of American victory in the Korean Peninsula.
China took the first step towards getting out of the trap in which Kim has placed them. They signaled clearly that if North Korea begins this conflict, then they would do nothing to support Kim. Simultaneously they warned America that they would enter the war if America imposes a regime change in North Korea.
The message is clear – President Trump, please de-nuclearize North Korea so that it may become a true vassal state of China. Then we can all go back to the late 1950s & 1960s situation in which North & South Korea remain enemies & North Korea remains a buffer state for China. In other words, act just like President Bush did in 2003 in his war against Iraq.
What a pyrrhic victory that was? America won Iraq but lost its image & its moral franchise in the world and got caught in a quagmire from which it has yet to disengage fully. The absolute & uncontested winner from that war was Iran. Iraq became a vassal state of Iran and Iran’s gateway to Syria & Lebanon. And what did Iran have to do to get such a victory? Nothing. Iran received this as a gift from President Bush.
Wouldn’t China love this sort of outcome? America attacks North Korea & de-nukes North Korea. Kim’s military is so badly damaged that it ceases to be a danger to America, Japan & even South Korea. A smart Kim can survive by accepting American demands or a dumb Kim can find himself replaced by a more sensible & less ambitious North Korean leader or junta. America gets blasted in the world as a wanton attacker & a danger to world peace. China ends up praised as a moderate responsible country and gets North Korea as a vassal buffer that has nowhere else to go.
The only problem is that President Trump understands this. Remember how often he blasted President Bush for making Iran the big winner of his war on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. If Trump’s America spends the blood of young Americans & American money to go to war against Kim’s North Korea, President Trump will not let China reap the rewards. His administration has already signaled this by sending a warship into South China Sea this week while he is trying to get China to solve North Korea.
The consistent mistake people made about Candidate Trump was to not take his words seriously. He has shown that he means what he says and acts to deliver what he says when the opportunity presents itself. China would be smart to take the words of President Trump very seriously. China is a country with close to a $500 trade surplus with Trump’s America; China is a country that is now isolated in Asia with imperialistic disputes with almost every neighbor in Asia, from Philippines to Vietnam and India. China’s only vassal-ally is NaPakistan that could find itself as the next target of President Trump’s drive to de-nuclearize much of the world.
That is, of course, assuming the America military is able to take out the North Korean military fairly easily, a bet we are willing to make. Trump’s Pentagon is not headed by a Rumsfeld type attitude that sought to win the Iraq war on the cheap. It is headed by Secretary Mattis who said in a written statement:
- “ … it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed, and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth … [North Korean] regime’s actions regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates“.
It was not only a statement but an ultimatum as well:
- “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and destruction of its people“.
Kim Jong Un would do well to heed these words and so would China.
Send your feedback to [email protected] Or @MacroViewpoints on Twitter