Diffuse tension with political and diplomatic solution
THE recent deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD), a United States Army anti-ballistic missile system, to South Korea, will make it more difficult for China to cooperate with Washington. China believes that THAAD is intended to spy on them.
The mounting military tension between North Korea and the US, to paraphrase Robert Oppenheimer, can be likened “to two scorpions in a bottle, each capable of killing the other but only at the risk of his own life”.
The risks of a war with North Korea are high. The risks of a miscalculation arising from unpredictable personalities are equally high. Although the US has a higher chance of survivability, in an unthinkable scenario, the outcome of a pre-emptive strike by Washington could be a strategic mistake.
The thought of North Korea downing the USS Carl Vinson is crazy. If that happens, all aircraft carriers, including China’s Liaoning, are vulnerable to target practice by a Third World nation. Communist leaders in Pyongyang must think through the consequences of such folly. It is not that simple to cripple an aircraft carrier! It is also unthinkable for the US to destroy North Korea, a sovereign nation and member of the United Nations.
Although Washington has all kinds of bombs to shut out North Korea for good, a more sensible strategy is to use a virus to further disable the nuclear facilities in the country, as it did in Iran. Yet, it is more rational for leaders in Washington to fully appreciate the implications of a military option on regional security and life of Americans in South Korea and Japan.
A rogue nation like North Korea has nothing to lose. Besides, it looks silly for a superpower to be seen bullying yet another Third World nation after Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now, Syria and Yemen. So much American treasure and blood has been wasted without commensurable strategic gains.
The collateral damage from a regime change in North Korea will be colossal. At risk are the lives of more than 20 million South Koreans in greater Seoul. The upshot of the turmoil could be a unified Korea, increasingly looking like a sharp dagger at Japan’s heart. A unified Korea under Seoul is bad for Beijing. A destabilised North Korea will engender a political vacuum that China is likely to fill.
The rightful thing to do with North Korea is pursue a political and diplomatic solution. Re-engage Kim Jong-un. Stop taunting him with joint military exercises. Instead, work with China and Russia to restrain Kim from conducting further missile testing. For all his antics, Kim has held North Korea together.
Better to deal with the devil we know than the devil we do not know.
BA HAMZAH Kuala Lumpur