A nu­clear trip wire for North Korea

The U.S. should de­fine clear lines that must not be crossed

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Daniel Galling­ton

Now that North Korea has a bunch of nukes and is test­ing ways to de­liver them by bal­lis­tic mis­sile, we need to ad­dress the stark re­al­i­ties of what this new threat re­ally means for us.

And just as im­por­tant — what it should mean for them.

How­ever, be­fore we be­gin, it should now be a re­al­ity for us that ne­go­ti­a­tions with fat boy Kim Jong-un’s regime are a to­tal waste of our time, en­ergy and money, just as they were with his stroked­out fa­ther’s crew.

Po­lit­i­cally, of course, this re­sult was the col­lec­tive fail­ure of our State Depart­ment, the Clin­ton, Bush and Obama ad­min­is­tra­tions, to­gether with the de­fec­tive con­cept of the “Six Party Talks.” The only “ac­com­plish­ment” was to pro­vide the time and diplo­matic cover for the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea’s nuke pro­gram, plus give the regime lots of oil and money in the process. In short, the Six Party Talks en­abled North Korea’s nuke weapons pro­gram. If this sounds fa­mil­iar, Barack Obama and John Kerry made the same mis­takes with Iran.

So, North Korea is now a dan­ger­ous nu­clear rookie and we must de­velop — and ar­tic­u­late — poli­cies that re­flect, in the words of De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis, the “clear and present dan­ger” they rep­re­sent.

What should our new poli­cies look like? What should be the “red lines,” and what North Korean be­hav­iors should cause vir­tu­ally au­to­matic re­sponses from us? As this is a whole new ball game, what should be the thresh­olds for our re­sponses and what should we be telling the Rus­sians and Chi­nese about it?

This be­cause noth­ing we do in re­sponse to North Korean ag­gres­sive be­hav­iors should come as a sur­prise to any­one.

It also seems clear we need both short- and longer-term strate­gies. Along with this ap­proach, we should rule out a num­ber of trou­ble­some sce­nar­ios for pos­si­ble armed con­flicts with North Korea — in other words, let’s also de­fine those sit­u­a­tions in which we sim­ply will not “play.”

Shorter-term strate­gies: The short term is, for a num­ber of rea­sons, the most dan­ger­ous. This is be­cause it’s the nu­clear mus­cle-flex­ing stage for the fat boy and also the pe­riod he is most likely to make a mis­take or do some­thing dumb. For this same rea­son, it’s also the pe­riod when our re­sponses should be in the vir­tu­ally “au­to­matic” mode, in­clud­ing pre-emp­tive strikes.

While there are a num­ber of sce­nar­ios that should be ad­dressed, there are a few that de­serve spe­cial at­ten­tion. In this cat­e­gory should be a pre-planned nu­clear re­sponse op­tion for each North Korean ac­tion:

• Prepa­ra­tions for a mas­sive ar­tillery at­tack on Seoul.

• Mass­ing troops at the bor­der. • In­ter­cep­tion of ocean or coastal traf­fic.

• In­ter­cep­tion of avi­a­tion.

• Launch of any bal­lis­tic mis­sile with an ag­gres­sive tra­jec­tory.

Longer-term strate­gies: These should be de­vel­oped with ur­gency, but on a dif­fer­ent track from the shorter-term ones. In this cat­e­gory should be:

• Dis­cus­sions with the Ja­panese for a co­op­er­a­tive nu­clear re­la­tion­ship.

• Re-po­si­tion­ing nu­clear as­sets — and nu­clear-ca­pa­ble as­sets — to and around the Korean penin­sula.

• Ex­clud­ing North Korea from any rel­e­vant diplo­matic dis­cus­sions; max­i­miz­ing all types of sanc­tions — in the U.N. and do­mes­ti­cally; ter­mi­nat­ing any re­main­ing Six Party ben­e­fits.

• Work­ing trade em­bar­gos; in­ter­cep­tions of sus­pi­cious com­merce; very ag­gres­sive in­for­ma­tion op­er­a­tions.

Defin­ing when we won’t “play”: This cat­e­gory is as im­por­tant as the other two — maybe more so, be­cause it is the essence of de­ter­ring the fat boy from do­ing some­thing stupid. Here are some things we won’t do in con­text of any con­flict or con­fronta­tion with the North:

• A land war on the Korean penin­sula — been there, done that.

• A build-up of our con­ven­tional forces in the re­gion in re­sponse to North Korean ag­gres­sive be­hav­iors — grad­u­al­ism does not work.

• Any kind of ne­go­ti­a­tions with the North – they have given up this op­tion.

Com­bined, these strate­gies are in­tended to have a sim­ple “mes­sage” for the North Korean regime: We have de­fined the lim­its of your be­hav­ior. If you cross the lines, our re­sponse will be quick — and pre-emp­tive if we de­cide you are about to do some­thing dumb. The re­sponse will be nu­clear if that is ap­pro­pri­ate for the risk you present to us — and in that event, you will cease to ex­ist as a po­lit­i­cal en­tity.

Per­haps as im­por­tant as pro­mul­gat­ing these strate­gies is that they be ar­tic­u­lated pub­licly and fully briefed to our al­lies and en­e­mies alike.

A use­ful anal­ogy: Dur­ing the Cold War, we had a SIOP — a Sin­gle In­te­grated Op­er­a­tional Plan — that in­cluded a tar­get­ing doc­trine (pro­mul­gated dur­ing the Carter ad­min­is­tra­tion) that fo­cused on the top Soviet lead­er­ship. My per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing the ’80s was that the lead­er­ship-tar­get­ing as­pect of the SIOP got the at­ten­tion of the Sovi­ets, along with Pres­i­dent Rea­gan’s Strate­gic De­fense Ini­tia­tive.

Will the fat boy be­have dif­fer­ently if we pro­mul­gate the strate­gies de­scribed above? That’s his choice, of course, but if he doesn’t, he should re­al­ize that the slight­est mis­cal­cu­la­tion on his part, let alone a dan­ger­ous overt act, could cause the end of him and his regime. In short, he has no mar­gin for er­ror — nor do we — and it should sur­prise no one.

Daniel Galling­ton served through 11 rounds of bi­lat­eral ne­go­ti­a­tions in Geneva as a mem­ber of the U.S. Del­e­ga­tion to the Nu­clear and Space Talks with the former Soviet Union.

Defin­ing when we won’t “play”: This cat­e­gory is as im­por­tant as the other two — maybe more so, be­cause it is the essence of de­ter­ring the fat boy from do­ing some­thing stupid.

ILLUSTRATION BY LINAS GARSYS

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