North Korea Raises the Stakes – Op­tions Dwin­dle as Nu­clear Threats Con­tinue

The Jewish Voice - - OP - ED - By: Joseph Klein

North Korea’s dic­ta­tor Kim Jong-un has raised the stakes. Af­ter con­duct­ing a suc­ces­sion of bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests, in­clud­ing two ICBM tests in July and its most re­cent bal­lis­tic mis­sile test over Ja­pan, the rogue regime car­ried out its sixth nu­clear test this past week­end. It re­port­edly was at least four times more pow­er­ful than the pre­vi­ous nu­clear test North Korea con­ducted last year. North Korea acted de­spite stri­dent warn­ings from Pres­i­dent Trump, en­hanced demon­stra­tions of U.S. and its al­lies’ joint mil­i­tary prow­ess in the re­gion, and in­creased sanc­tions im­posed col­lec­tively by the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Council and uni­lat­er­ally by the United States.

When this pow­er­ful nu­clear bomb test is cou­pled with North Korea’s suc­cess­ful test launch­ing of in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles and with in­tel­li­gence re­ports in­di­cat­ing that North Korea has mas­tered the ca­pa­bil­ity to minia­tur­ize a nu­clear war­head that can fit onto its mis­siles, the regime ap­pears to be closer than ever to pre­sent­ing a cred­i­ble nu­clear threat to the United States main­land. It still has one prob­lem to solve in or­der to suc­cess­fully launch di­rect nu­clear strikes on U.S. cities - mis­sile re-en­try into the at­mos­phere.

How­ever, with­out even both­er­ing about re-en­try, North Korea may al­ready have the ca­pa­bil­ity to­day to det­o­nate a nu­clear bomb in the up­per at­mos­phere, gen­er­at­ing an elec­tro­mag­netic pulse (EMP) that could vir­tu­ally de­stroy the US.'s elec­tri­cal grid and com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems. An EMP at­tack would af­fect trans­porta­tion as well as crit­i­cal food, wa­ter and med­i­cal sup­plies. Mil­lions of peo­ple could die as a re­sult. North Korea has in fact threat­ened just such an at­tack.

In short, the U.S. and its al­lies are fac­ing a very se­ri­ous threat of cat­a­strophic pro­por­tions from an er­ratic mega­lo­ma­niac, with lim­ited op­tions to pre­vent it from be­com­ing a grim re­al­ity at a time of Kim Jong-un’s choos­ing.

Pres­i­dent Trump re­sponded to North Korea’s lat­est nu­clear test provo­ca­tion via his usual chan­nel of choice, Twit­ter. The pres­i­dent first tweeted: “North Korea has con­ducted a ma­jor Nu­clear Test. Their words and ac­tions con­tinue to be very hos­tile and dan­ger­ous to the United States.....” He also an­nounced that he was meet­ing with his White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis and mil­i­tary lead­ers at the White House to dis­cuss North Korea.

Af­ter then crit­i­ciz­ing China for not do­ing enough to stop North Korea and crit­i­ciz­ing South Korea for its “talk of ap­pease­ment with North Korea,” Pres­i­dent Trump ramped up the pres­sure on any coun­tries still do­ing busi­ness with North Korea. He tweeted: “The United States is con­sid­er­ing, in ad­di­tion to other op­tions, stop­ping all trade with any coun­try do­ing busi­ness with North Korea.” China, North Korea’s big­gest trad­ing part­ner and prin­ci­pal sup­plier of oil, would seem to be the main tar­get of this threat.

China con­demned North Korea’s lat­est nu­clear test and urged North Korea to “stop tak­ing er­ro­neous ac­tions that de­te­ri­o­rate the sit­u­a­tion.” It has pre­vi­ously backed the United States in vot­ing for the tough­est eco­nomic sanc­tions res­o­lu­tion yet at the UN Se­cu­rity Council, and has in fact cur­tailed some trade with North Korea. Yet Kim Jong-un re­mains un­fazed.

Would Pres­i­dent Trump risk a dev­as­tat­ing blow­back to the United States econ­omy by stop­ping all trade with China if China does not promptly agree to cut off all of its trade with North Korea, in­clud­ing the sup­ply of oil? China would ob­vi­ously be hurt badly by such an ac­tion. How­ever, given the in­ter­twin­ing of the U.S. and Chi­nese economies and China’s vast hold­ings of U.S. Trea­sury se­cu­ri­ties, the U.S. econ­omy would also suf­fer ma­jor dam­age. Thus, it is un­likely that Pres­i­dent Trump would fol­low through with his threat any­time soon. China’s lead­ers as well as North Korea’s know this.

Ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice of the United States Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, “U.S. goods and ser­vices trade with China to­taled an es­ti­mated $648.2 bil­lion in 2016.”

China is cur­rently the U.S.’s largest goods trad­ing part­ner with $578.6 bil­lion in to­tal goods traded in both di­rec­tions dur­ing 2016. While the U.S. has a trade sur­plus with China in the ser­vices sec­tor ($37.4 bil­lion in 2016), the U.S. trade deficit with China in goods is con­sid­er­ably higher ($347.0 bil­lion in 2016). Pres­i­dent Trump has fre­quently crit­i­cized the ex­tent of this trade deficit. How­ever, many jobs in the U.S. would be lost were he to close down or sharply cur­tail U.S. im­ports from China, as such an ac­tion would in­evitably lead to a pro­por­tion­ate re­tal­ia­tory re­sponse against U.S. ex­ports to China. Ac­cord­ing to the De­part­ment of Com­merce, U.S. ex­ports of goods and ser­vices to China sup­ported an es­ti­mated 911,000 jobs in 2015 (lat­est data avail­able).

More­over, if China’s U.S. mar­ket is cut off and its cur­rency drops dras­ti­cally in value as a re­sult, it may be forced to liq­ui­date its U.S. trea­sury hold­ings in a fire sale to raise cur­rency re­serves. This would have the ef­fect of se­ri­ously de­press­ing the price of U.S. trea­suries, which would mean much higher trea­sury yields and pos­si­bly un­der­mine the strength of the U.S. dol­lar’s unique sta­tus as the world’s re­serve cur­rency. This all could have a rip­ple ef­fect through­out the U.S. and global economies, which in turn could pre­cip­i­tate a ma­jor re­ces­sion, if not an out­right eco­nomic de­pres­sion.

Even if China, for what­ever rea­son, agreed to cut off all trade with North Korea, there is no way the United States or its al­lies could be cer­tain that China would fully en­force such a ban against all Chi­nese in­di­vid­u­als and en­ti­ties, pub­lic and pri­vate.

Ap­ply­ing more trade lever­age with China’s full co­op­er­a­tion is un­likely to stop Kim Jong-un in any event. He is de­ter­mined to build up enough of a nu­clear de­ter­rence to pre­vent the United States and its al­lies from dar­ing to at­tempt an at­tack or regime change. More­over, North Korea will find a way to pro­cure oil from its ally Iran and to re­ceive hard cur­rency for its trans­fer of nu­clear and mis­sile re­lated tech­nol­ogy and parts to Iran.

Pres­i­dent Trump could agree now to an en­tirely diplo­matic so­lu­tion, along the lines of the mu­tual freeze of North Korea’s nu­clear weapons and bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grams in ex­change for sus­pen­sion of all ma­jor mil­i­tary ex­er­cises in the re­gion by the United States and its al­lies. China and Rus­sia have ad­vo­cated this path, ac­com­pa­nied by the re­sump­tion of talks with the ob­jec­tive of de­nu­cle­ariz­ing the Korean peninsula. At this point, North Korea may well de­mand more, such as mas­sive fi­nan­cial aid and the re­moval of U.S. mil­i­tary as­sets from the re­gion. And North Korea would con­sider de­nu­cle­ariza­tion to be a non-starter. It has cer­tainly not come this far in de­vel­op­ing its nu­clear weapons ca­pa­bil­i­ties to roll them all the way back, much less ac­cept un­fet­tered on­site in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tions. For his part, Pres­i­dent Trump has cor­rectly branded di­rect talks at this point with North Korea and the grant­ing of more con­ces­sions to in­duce them to be­have as ap­pease­ment of nu­clear ex­tor­tion.

Even if North Korea and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion were to ac­cept just a mu­tual freeze, it would amount to no more than kick­ing the can down the road, just as we have seen for the last two decades. Freez­ing North Korea’s nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grams in place is tacit ac­cep-

tance of North Korea’s sta­tus as a full-fledged nu­clear power. This would track with for­mer Pres­i­dent Obama’s Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Su­san Rice’s ad­vice to “tol­er­ate nu­clear weapons in North Korea” and con­tain the regime in­stead. How­ever, un­less backed by a demon­strated will­ing­ness to use mil­i­tary force to stop fur­ther ex­pan­sion of North Korea’s nu­clear and bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grams, the United States will be right back where it started, ex­cept at an even higher threat level.

North Korea’s dic­ta­tor Kim Jong-un has raised the stakes. Af­ter con­duct­ing a suc­ces­sion of bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests, in­clud­ing two ICBM tests in July and its most re­cent bal­lis­tic mis­sile test over Ja­pan, the rogue regime car­ried out its sixth nu­clear test this past week­end

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