Trump’s DPRK stance offers Abe a way to achieve his aim
Calling the Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea leader a “pretty smart cookie”, and displaying amazing readiness to personally meet him, United States President Donald Trump has apparently softened his rhetoric, prompting some to imagine that once unlikely scenario might happen. Although the WhiteHouse was quick to roll back, shifting the limelight onto the “right circumstances”, which spokesperson Sean Spicer said “are not there right now”, Trump’s remark is in line with his new-found determination to find a resolution to the DPRK issue.
Although the once clear-and-present danger of military conflict no longer seems as imminent, with both Pyongyang andWashington demonstrating restraint. It has not disappeared, and the road to denuclearization remains long and tortuous.
Not just because theUS and the DPRK remain trapped in a vicious circle. In response to the latest military drill conducted by theUS and the Republic of Korea— during which two nuclear-capable B-1B bombers joined forces with the aircraft carrierUSS
and nuclear-powered submarines— Pyongyang accused Washington of pushing the peninsula to the “brink of nuclear war” through “reckless military provocation”. And we have had earfuls of that following each nuclear or missile test by Pyongyang.
But also because the inevitable toll of any military action on the ROKweighs heavily on all decision-makers, and makes it extremely difficult to justify using force. Thatmay be why the WhiteHouse has chosen to remain somewhat vague and refrained from drawing a redline, despite its desire to mount maximum pressure.
The most likely outcome, then, is theUS and other stakeholders find themselves bogged down in protracted debate over a feasible way to translate their wishes for a peaceful solution into acceptable-to-all actions, while the DPRK continues with its brinkmanship while avoiding crossing what it perceives to be theUS’ bottom line.
As a result, the DPRK will likely advance its nuclear weapons goals, even accomplish them. That would mean Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claiming justification for putting to rest his country’s war-renouncing Constitution.
Abe has already managed to demolish legal constraints on “collective self-defense” without violating Article 9, and lifted the long-standing ban on weapons exports.
OnMonday, he reiterated the need to revise the county’s Constitution, citing tensions in the region. On the same day, Japan dispatched one of its largest warships to protect a US navy supply vessel.
To borrow a line from Trump, Pyongyang “will have good missiles”, if the current stalemate persists.
Abe, on the other hand, can ride the waves of confrontation and see his dream come true, without contributing anything substantial to end the stalemate.