The Ko­rea mis­sile cri­sis

The Week Middle East - - News -

“How did we get here,” asked Fa­reed Zakaria in The Wash­ing­ton Post. Why does it sud­denly ap­pear that we’re “on the brink of a war in Asia”? From the start, Pres­i­dent Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion “has wanted to look tough on North Ko­rea”. But when the lat­est cri­sis blew up – pre­cip­i­tated by re­ports that Pyongyang had de­vel­oped an in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile, and a nu­clear war­head small enough to fit on it – Trump’s re­ac­tion was “deeply wor­ry­ing and dan­ger­ous”. He threat­ened to bring down “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on North Ko­rea; when pressed on the is­sue, he dou­bled down, promis­ing that “mil­i­tary so­lu­tions are now fully in place, locked and loaded”, should Kim Jong Un “act un­wisely”. Through­out his ca­reer, Trump has made “grandiose prom­ises and omi­nous threats”. The prob­lem is that “he is no longer a busi­ness­man try­ing to brow­beat some­one into a deal”, said The New York Times. “He com­mands the most pow­er­ful nu­clear arsenal in the world, and any mis­cal­cu­la­tion could be cat­a­strophic.” There is, in fact, method in Trump’s mad­ness, said Fraser Nel­son in The Daily Tele­graph. For nearly 25 years, Pyongyang has been “string­ing Amer­ica along”. Deals were struck in 1994, 2007 and 2012 to “en­cour­age or bribe” North Ko­rea to drop its nu­clear am­bi­tions. Each time it car­ried on re­gard­less. Now that its nu­clear mis­siles could strike Amer­ica, is it re­ally so un­rea­son­able for Trump to give up on “the old cy­cle of talks, treaties and treach­ery”? The key to a so­lu­tion is China, whose food and fuel keep North Ko­rea vi­able. “Trump’s rhetoric is in­tended for Bei­jing, not Pyongyang.” He wants to con­vince the Chi­nese that his ad­min­is­tra­tion re­ally might do some­thing “rash”, whether it’s start­ing a war or en­cour­ag­ing Amer­ica’s al­lies in South Ko­rea and Japan to de­velop their own nu­clear weapons. There are signs that the strat­egy is work­ing: China re­cently agreed to help im­pose sanc­tions, and now ap­pears to ac­cept that it must put pres­sure on Pyongyang to dis­arm. Ul­ti­mately, though, Trump’s po­si­tion is a bluff, said Jeffrey Lewis in For­eign Pol­icy. “There is no cred­i­ble mil­i­tary op­tion.” North Ko­rea has as many as 60 nu­clear weapons, not to men­tion a vast con­ven­tional arsenal. “Do you re­ally think US strikes could get them all? That not a sin­gle one would sur­vive to land on Seoul, Tokyo or New York?” That leaves two op­tions, said The Wash­ing­ton Post. One is to assem­ble a coali­tion of na­tions to im­pose eco­nomic sanc­tions so puni­tive that Kim de­cides he would be bet­ter off mak­ing a deal. The other is “to live with a nu­clear North Ko­rea, as we have long lived with a nu­clear China” – de­ter­ring its use of those weapons by as­sur­ing Kim that his state would be an­ni­hi­lated in re­tal­i­a­tion. Our view is that it is worth try­ing the for­mer be­fore ac­cept­ing the lat­ter. But it will re­quire “pa­tience, diplo­macy, co­her­ence and quiet strength. Just to list those qual­i­ties is to ac­knowl­edge how un­likely suc­cess seems at this mo­ment.”

An anti-US rally in Pyongyang

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