Saturday August 18, 2018
Home Lead Story Tense US-Nort...

Tense US-North Korea Standoff Slowly Escalates

0
//
22
The U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is traveling to North Korea, preparing for the upcoming meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.
Kim Jong Un will meet US President, VOA
Republish
Reprint

As the tense nuclear standoff between North Korea and the United States continues to escalate, the risk of military conflict grows, while hopes for a peaceful solution remain remote.

On Sunday U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson said diplomatic efforts to persuade the Kim Jong Un government to give up its nuclear and long-range ballistic missile program will continue “until the first bomb drops.”

But President Donald Trump has been pessimistic on the prospect of finding any diplomatic solution. He has called Tillerson’s efforts a “waste of time” and indicated that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un cannot be trusted to adhere to any diplomatic agreement as the leadership in Pyongyang has repeatedly violated past denuclearization deals.

“I think I might have a somewhat different attitude and a different way than other people. I think perhaps I feel stronger and tougher on that subject, than other people,” Trump said last week.

Systematic preparations

The Trump administration’s hardline stance demanding North Korea unilaterally stop developing a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the U.S. mainland could be a negotiating strategy, but critics fear it could also be laying the groundwork for the eventual use of military force.

“This administration, not just Trump, this administration is systematically preparing for a time not that far off in the future, basically next year the way I interpreted it in context when diplomacy has failed,” said John Delury, an international relations professor at Yonsei University in Seoul.

A recent poll shows increasing U.S. support among President Donald Trump’s Republican supporters for a preemptive strike to take out North Korean nuclear or ballistic missile sites, although a strong majority of Americans still oppose the use of force.

While launching such a strike to prevent an imminent North Korean attack on the U.S. would be a justifiable use of force, it might be difficult to prove.

But any first strike military options, including possible cyber attacks to sabotage North Korean missile tests, or a decapitation strike to kill Kim Jong Un and the leadership in Pyongyang, would risk deadly retaliation against South Korea along with the 28,000 American troops stationed in the south, and could plunge the entire region into a nuclear war.

“I think that would be moral, diplomatically, strategically, politically a great disaster, not only for the people of Korea and the region but for the United States of America too,” said North Korea analyst David Straub with the Sejong Institute.

Military brinksmanship

Yet neither side is acting to reduce tensions, as they remain locked in what seems a deadly game of brinksmanship.

The United States and South Korea began week-long joint Navy drills in the waters around the Korean peninsula that involve about 40 naval ships from both countries, including the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier and U.S. submarine Michigan.

South Korean media is reporting that a U.S. Special Forces unit practicing for “decapitation” operations is taking part in the joint exercises.

The U.S. has also sent a B-1B Lancer strategic bomber and F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets to participate in the Seoul air show this week.

And the U.S. forces in Korea will begin non-combatant evacuation training next week for service members and their families in case of a North Korean attack or other disasters.

North Korea, in turn, is expected to test another long-range missile soon. The North’s state news agency KCNA on Friday indicated a missile test might target waters near the U.S. territory of Guam.” In August, Trump said the U.S. would respond “with fire and fury” to an earlier North Korean threat to target Guam.

Pyongyang says the Trump administration’s hostile intent, and the increased military buildup, further justify its need for a nuclear deterrent.(VOA)

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 NewsGram

Next Story

Trump Needs Obama For Dealing With North Korea, Said Jon Wolfsthal

Obama advised Trump to pursue the pressure option

0

During a meeting regarding the transition, former President Barack Obama presented President-elect Donald Trump with two options for dealing with North Korea, said Jon Wolfsthal, a close Obama aide who served as senior director at the National Security Council for arms control and nonproliferation during the Obama administration.

The two options: Seek a freeze on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs through direct engagement, or increase pressure on North Korea through China.

Obama advised Trump to pursue the pressure option, according to Wolfsthal. He specifically advised Trump to push for greater Chinese support to rein in the North’s nuclear development, he added.

“Making it clear to China that their continued protection of North Korea was beginning to undermine American security interests and that we would increasingly have to take steps to protect our interests in a way that might undermine China’s own security was a strategy that we believed was going to bear fruit,” Wolfsthal said during an interview with VOA Korean in February 2017, shortly after his departure from the Obama administration.

President Donald Trump talks with Kim Yong Chol, former North Korean military intelligence chief and one of leader Kim Jong Un's closest aides, as they walk from their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, June 1, 2018.
President Donald Trump talks with Kim Yong Chol, former North Korean military intelligence chief and one of leader Kim Jong Un’s closest aides, as they walk from their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, June 1, 2018. VOA

Pressure and engagement

Despite his repeated criticism of Obama for failing to stop North Korea’s nuclear development, Trump took Obama’s advice and employed it in his strategy. Pressuring China is a key element of Trump’s strategy on North Korea.

What makes Trump’s strategy different from Obama’s is it eventually pursues dialogue with North Korea.

Unlike Obama, who showed little interest in talks with North Korea, Trump is pursuing a dual strategy of pressure and engagement. He is using pressure and engagement in sequence: put pressure first and try engagement.

The purpose of Trump’s “maximum pressure campaign” is to press North Korea to return to dialogue and produce desirable outcomes from talks.

President Donald Trump talks with Kim Yong Chol, former North Korean military intelligence chief and one of leader Kim Jong Un's closest aides, as they walk from their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, June 1, 2018.
President Donald Trump talks with Kim Yong Chol, former North Korean military intelligence chief and one of leader Kim Jong Un’s closest aides, as they walk from their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, June 1, 2018. VOA

Trump’s strategy is a clear departure from the Obama administration’s, but it’s not unprecedented. A similar strategy was tried by William Perry, who served as secretary of defense from 1994-1997 under former President Bill Clinton. Perry advocated the so-called “coercive diplomacy,” that is, diplomacy backed up with a credible military threat.

US promises, silence on human rights

Trump sent a clear message to Pyongyang that his strategy is different from that of the previous administration: seeking dialogue while keeping sanctions in place.

In a bid to bring North Korea to the table and allay the North’s security concerns, the Trump administration laid out four actions the U.S. would not take against North Korea.

In August 2017, as tensions were rising rapidly after North Korea’s second intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson assured North Korea that the U.S. “will not seek a regime change, a collapse of the regime, an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, or an excuse to send military north of the 38th parallel.”

No previous U.S. administration had ever made such promises to North Korea in this way.

People watch a TV screen showing file footage of U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, May 16, 2018.
People watch a TV screen showing file footage of U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, May 16, 2018. VOA

Trump has also been relatively subdued in his criticism of North Korea’s human rights violations compared with previous administrations, a stance that has drawn criticism from some members of Congress and human rights groups. Trump’s supporters, however, say his efforts to engage North Korea would not be productive if the administration raised the human rights issue strongly.

Top-down approach

Trump may soon to be the first sitting U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader, with the upcoming summit in Singapore. His top-down approach has had its ups and downs, however.

Supporters say Trump has made far more progress in diplomacy with North Korea than any of his predecessors. The dramatic shift from a possible military confrontation to a flurry of high-level diplomacy in less than six months was only possible because of Trump’s full support, they say.

Supporters argue Trump’s commitment to dialogue contributed to the North Korean regime’s decision to return to talks, saying Pyongyang has been seeking a summit with a U.S. president for many years.

Critics argue Trump should not start the discussions, but that his involvement should be the carrot at the end of the process.

They also argue allowing a North Korean leader to have a face-to-face meeting with a sitting U.S. president alone is a huge concession to North Korea. Such a meeting gives legitimacy to the North Korean regime, which it badly needs, without offering the U.S. anything in return.

Some critics also suggest the summit helps Kim shift his image from that of a “brutal dictator” who executed his uncle and ordered the assassination of his half brother to a “skillful leader.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a long- and medium-range ballistic rocket launch drill in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang, Aug. 30, 2017.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects a long- and medium-range ballistic rocket launch drill in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang, Aug. 30, 2017. VOA

Fate of dual strategy

The Trump administration has said it will keep sanctions in place against Pyongyang until a complete denuclearization of North Korea is achieved. It believes maintaining sanctions will give the U.S. the upper hand in negotiations with North Korea.

It has also vowed to increase sanctions and international pressure against North Korea if talks fail.

Critics warn, however, that Trump’s pressure campaign will lose momentum once talks are under way.

Trump’s critics say the consequences of failed talks are great, and that it would be difficult for the administration to revive diplomatic efforts for sanctions if talks collapse at the summit.

Also read: Moon meet Trump North Korea summit

They caution it is unrealistic to unilaterally demand North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons, saying North Korea is likely to demand corresponding action from the United States.(VOA)