North Korea

The Challenge of Containing Kim Jung Un

The Economist: “For all his eccentricities, Mr Kim is behaving rationally. He watched Muammar Qadaffi of Libya give up his nuclear program in return for better relations with the West—and end up dead. He sees his nuclear arsenal as a guarantee that his regime, and he, will survive. (Though it would be suicidal for him to use it.) Mr Trump can do little to change his mind. Economic sanctions that harm his people will not spoil his lunch. Cyber-attacks, which may account for the failure of some recent missile launches, can slow but not stop him. America can solve the Korean conundrum only with China’s help.”

“China has leverage over Mr Kim. It accounts for 85% of North Korea’s foreign trade and could shut off its oil supply. But its interests are not the same as America’s. North Korea is its ally. China’s leaders do not like the Kim regime, but they do not wish to see it collapse and North Korea reunite, German-style, with the democratic South. That, China fears, would mean the loss of a valuable buffer. There are 28,500 American troops stationed in the South; China does not want them on its border.”

North Korea Warns of ‘Super-Mighty Preemptive Strike’

North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear program, Reuters reports.

Said the statement: “In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes.”

North Korea Images Show Volleyball, Not Nuclear Tests

“U.S. experts who have been forecasting an imminent North Korean nuclear test said on Tuesday they were surprised when they viewed their latest satellite images of the country’s nuclear test site and saw volleyball games under way,” Reuters reports.

“With tension mounting between Pyongyang and Washington, analysts had thought they would see activity suggesting preparations for an underground explosion at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and were not expecting what the photos, taken on Sunday by a commercial satellite, revealed.”

Aircraft Carrier Wasn’t Sailing to Deter North Korea

“As worries deepened last week about whether North Korea would conduct a missile test, the White House declared that ordering an American aircraft carrier into the Sea of Japan would send a powerful deterrent signal and give President Trump more options in responding to the North’s provocative behavior,” the New York Times reports.

“The problem was, the carrier, the Carl Vinson, and the four other warships in its strike force were at that very moment sailing in the opposite direction, to take part in joint exercises with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean, 3,500 miles southwest of the Korean Peninsula.”

Pence Threatens North Korea with Military Action

“Vice President Pence warned North Korea Monday that it could be in for the same treatment as Syria and Afghanistan – both of which the Trump administration has bombed this month – if it continues with its nuclear program,” the Washington Post reports.

“The stark warning, delivered in Seoul after the vice president went to the military demarcation that separates the two Koreas, could revive speculation that the White House is considering military action against the regime in Pyongyang.”

New York Times: “A Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion”

Trump Stays Quiet After Latest North Korea Provocation

“The president was uncharacteristically quiet after North Korea’s latest failed missile launch, leaving it to his team of deputies, as well as Vice President Pence to articulate the administration’s policy toward the totalitarian regime,” the Washington Post reports.

Wall Street Journal: “In the wake of Pyongyang’s failed missile test over the weekend, Trump administration officials stepped up pressure on Beijing, saying the threat has reached an inflection point that demands new urgency.”

North Korean Show of Strength Fizzles

“North Korea launched a ballistic missile Sunday morning from near its submarine base in Sinpo on its east coast, but the launch failed,” the New York Times reports.

“The timing was a deep embarrassment for the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, because the missile appeared to have been launched to show off his daring as a fleet of American warships approached his country to deter provocations.”

“The missile blew up almost immediately, and the type of missile involved was still being assessed.”

Mike Allen: “Inside of 100 days of his presidency, Trump faces a huge provocation, and a massive challenge to diplomatic and military machinery that are new to his teams. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears to want war, and China has warned the tensions could spiral out of control. It’s Trump’s biggest test.”

Trump Offered China a Deal on North Korea

President Trump told the Wall Street Journal that he has offered Chinese President Xi Jinping a more favorable trade deal for Beijing in exchange for his help on confronting the threat of North Korea.

Said Trump: “I told him, I said, ‘You know we’re not going to let that current trade deficit go ahead. But you want to make a great deal? Solve the problem in North Korea.’ That’s worth having deficits. And that’s worth having not as good a trade deal as I would normally be able to make.”

Trump Suggests U.S. Will ‘Solve’ North Korea Problem

President Trump told the Financial Times that he will discuss the North Korea problem with the Chinese president at their upcoming summit.

Said Trump: “Yes, we will talk about North Korea. And China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone.”

He added: Well, if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.”

Tillerson Rejects Talks with North Korea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ruled out opening any negotiation with North Korea to freeze its nuclear and missile programs and said for the first time that the Trump administration might be forced to take pre-emptive action “if they elevate the threat of their weapons program” to an unacceptable level, the New York Times reports.

“The secretary of state’s comments were the Trump administration’s first public hint at the options being considered, and they made clear that none involved a negotiated settlement or waiting for the North Korean government to collapse.”

Said Tillserson: “The policy of strategic patience has ended.”

North Korea Is Preparing for Nuclear War

Foreign Policy: “What is disturbing about the situation, though, is how the war plans of North Korea, South Korea, and the United States might interact. North Korea’s military exercises leave little doubt that Pyongyang plans to use large numbers of nuclear weapons against U.S. forces throughout Japan and South Korea to blunt an invasion. In fact, the word that official North Korean statements use is ‘repel.’ North Korean defectors have claimed that the country’s leaders hope that by inflicting mass casualties and destruction in the early days of a conflict, they can force the United States and South Korea to recoil from their invasion. While U.S. officials usually bluster that Kim would be suicidal to order the large-scale use of nuclear weapons, it’s obvious that a conventional defense didn’t work for Saddam Hussein or Muammar al-Qaddafi when they faced an onslaught of U.S. military power. That was suicide. Of course, that’s where those North Korean ICBMs come in: to keep Trump from doing anything regrettable after Kim Jong Un obliterates Seoul and Tokyo.”

“Then there is this: Kim’s strategy depends on using nuclear weapons early — before the United States can kill him or those special forces on display in Foal Eagle can find his missile units. He has to go first, if he is to go at all.”

“But going first is also the U.S. strategy. That means, in a crisis, the pressure will be to escalate. Whatever restraint Kim or Trump might show — and let’s be honest, our expectations here are not high — each will face enormous pressure to start the attack lest his opponent beat him to the punch. Then there is South Korea, which has its own pre-emption plan, separate from OPLAN 5015 and using South Korean ballistic and cruise missiles. Pyongyang, Washington, and Seoul all have plans to go first. Two of them are going to be wrong about that.”