Fiery talk won’t curb Kim, but other ap­proaches might

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS -

Amer­i­cans could be for­given for los­ing sleep this week over de­vel­op­ments on the Korean Penin­sula.

First came word of North Korea’s break­through in de­vel­op­ing a nu­clear weapon small enough to fit on top of a long- range mis­sile that could po­ten­tially reach the U. S. main­land, a sce­nario dis­played in end­less ca­ble news sim­u­la­tions.

Within hours, Pres­i­dent Trump ap­par­ently ad- libbed a warn­ing that North Korean threats would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Then the North Korean army said plans were in place for a nu­clear “en­velop­ing fire” around the U. S. ter­ri­tory of Guam, with its 160,000 peo­ple.

Whoa. Time for a deep breath. Fiery rhetoric aside, it bears re­mem­ber­ing that the United States and North Korea do not seek do­min­ion over the other. Amer­ica has no de­sire to in­vade that far­away land, and the Kim fam­ily dynasty has demon­strated dur­ing seven decades of rule that its over­rid­ing goal is sur­vival, not world con­quest.

The cur­rent leader, Kim Jong Un, is many things: mur­der­ous, ruth­less, a despot cling­ing to power un­der the state- spon­sored fic­tion that his coun­try is un­der siege. There’s no in­di­ca­tion, how­ever, that he is sui­ci­dal.

Kim watched Iraq’s Sad­dam Hus­sein and Libya’s Moam­mar Gad­hafi give up on nu­clear arms only to lose their lives. To avoid their fate, Kim works to­ward a weapon that could threaten Amer­ica, and Trump doesn’t want that to hap­pen on his watch.

To deal with the threat, non­com­bat al­ter­na­tives in­clude:

uDi­plo­macy. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son has of­fered the pos­si­bil­ity of ne­go­ti­a­tions to en­sure se­cu­rity for the Kim regime in ex­change for curb­ing its nu­clear am­bi­tions. As Tiller­son made plain to Py­ongyang last week, “We are not your en­emy, we are not your threat.”

uDeter­rence. Even dur­ing the height of the Cold War, when Rus­sia was threat­en­ing Amer­ica with thousands of nu­clear weapons, the doc­trine of mu­tu­ally as­sured de­struc­tion pre­vented a con­fla­gra­tion.

uCy­ber sab­o­tage. The United States could have sur­rep­ti­tious tools to dis­rupt and de­lay North Korea’s mis­sile test­ing. These would in­clude covert cy­ber and elec­tronic in­ter­fer­ence pro­grams.

uMis­sile de­fense. In­ter­me­di­ate- mis­sile de­fense sys­tems have shown con­sid­er­able suc­cess, and test­ing con­tin­ues for bat­ter­ies that can shoot down in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles tar­get­ing the USA.

uSanc­tions. Last week, in a note­wor­thy achieve­ment at the United Na­tions, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion won unan­i­mous Se­cu­rity Coun­cil con­sent for tougher sanc­tions that could slash North Korea’s an­nual ex­port rev­enue. Ad­her­ence by China, which han­dles 85% of North Korea’s trade, holds the key.

All of these are ways to lessen the threat from North Korea with­out touch­ing off a nu­clear con­fla­gra­tion. In the mean­time, “fire and fury” re­marks are not help­ful. Such brinkman­ship can lead to lethal mis­cal­cu­la­tions and a hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter. That out­come is avoid­able. Amer­ica fares best when it acts with steely re­solve, not out of fear.


Tele­vi­sion news in Seoul, South Korea, on Wed­nes­day.

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