Trump’s DPRK stance of­fers Abe a way to achieve his aim

China Daily (Canada) - - NEWS CAPSULE -

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.

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