An essential element for US strategy toward North Korea is deterring the nuclear threat that exists here and now.
It was the latest escalation in a week of undiplomatic exchanges between North Korea and the U.S. during the U.N. General Assembly’s annual ministerial meeting.
“Mr. President, will you attack North Korea?” a reporter asked Trump on Sunday morning, as he was leaving church, a couple of hours after his tweets. He answered, “We’ll see.” By then, his national-security team had mustered, to deal with both Kim and, presumably, Trump. In yet another tweet, a little after noon, Trump said, “I will be meeting General Kelly, General Mattis and other military leaders at the White House to discuss North Korea. Thank you.” It is revealing that Trump still classifies John Kelly, his chief of staff, who, like James Mattis, his Secretary of Defense, is retired from the Marines, as a general and a military leader. And was that “Thank you.” directed at them? There are reasons it should be: within an hour of Trump’s rejection of talk last week, Mattis told reporters that “we’re never out of diplomatic solutions.”
Mattis was also asked, in a separate encounter with reporters last week, why he hadn’t quit working for Trump. “You know, when a President of the United States asks you to do something, I come,” he said. “I don’t care if it’s Republican or Democrat; we all have an obligation to serve. That’s all there is to it.” Mattis added that he had had arguments with Trump, he said, but “this is not a man who’s immune to being persuaded, if he thinks you’ve got an argument. So anyway, press on.” Press on, and hope, meanwhile, that President Trump will not press any buttons.
Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho told reporters that the United Nations and the international community have said in recent days that they didn’t want “the war of words” to turn into “real action.”
But he said that by tweeting that North Korea’s leadership led by Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer,” Trump “declared the war on our country.”
Trump reinforced the deterrence message yesterday by clearly communicating that the costs the US can impose on North Korea outweigh any potential benefit Kim Jong Un might hope to achieve from attacking the US or its allies.
Donald Trump said that there will be a war with North Korea. That means that we will be invading North Korea at some point, probably in the very near future. United States and South Korea troops are getting ready to launch a full scale attack on North Korea the second they get the order.
President Trump continued to make vague threats toward North Korea on Saturday, saying that diplomatic negotiations and agreements over the years have not worked and that “only one thing will work,” without elaborating on what that one thing would be.
“Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid .?.?. hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators. Sorry, but only one thing will work!” Trump tweeted in two messages on Saturday afternoon.
North Korean officials have previously called some of Trump’s comments and tweets declarations of war.
I think it’s important to understand why these remarks are so dangerous. I keep seeing people defending Trump, saying, “Who cares of we hurt Kim Jong Un’s feelings?” That totally misses the point.
Trump’s remarks make two mistakes. First, they actively aid North Korea’s propaganda because a lot of people in Japan and South Korea will conclude that Trump is as much the problem as Kim. Americans seldom pay attention to politics in allied countries, but they can be tremendously important.
Second, Trump is basically creating audience costs for Kim to back down. If you dare Kim, it creates pressure for him to respond with his own provocation. The last time we saw the North Koreans let a Trump threat pass, it was the comment about the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test not happening. In hindsight, it’s clear North Korea didn’t forget; it just took them time to be ready.
Trump acting like a fool isn’t the end of the world — at least he didn’t pull the nuclear codes out of his jacket and wave them around — but it does make our North Korea policy incrementally more difficult.
“No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles,” Trump said, referring to the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”
“Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime,” he continued, using his new favorite nickname for Kim.
U.S. analysts have said that North Korea’s nuclear program has quickly accelerated and the country is now making missile-ready nuclear weapons. Last week, tensions again escalated as North Korea threatened to shoot down U.S. military planes, even if they are not in the country’s airspace…
North Korea, the US, and its allies understand what “effective and overwhelming” means. We are left to guess if there is daylight between that and “totally destroy.” Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. But that ambiguity does not do much to enhance deterrence, which requires clarity and consistency.
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