The Coming US-North Korea Crisis

North Korea has been very clear year-end is a deadline for them to end the freeze if realistic talks are not resumed

A little over a month remains until North Korea’s end-of-year deadline expires. The Trump administration remains oblivious:

Senior American diplomats do not appear to share that urgency. To them, it’s just posturing.

“I don’t remember a time limit being set. Is this the North Koreans?” David R. Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told reporters in Tokyo last month, admitting to being unaware of the deadline. “But I would say that the North Koreans do one thing a lot, and that’s bluff.”

Like other states, North Korea does bluff sometimes, but it has also demonstrated a willingness to follow through on what it says it will do at other times.

The problem with U.S. North Korea policy even before Trump is that our government assumes that they are always bluffing and then gets caught off guard when they do what they have threatened to do.

That is a very important point that Van Jackson made earlier this month on his podcast in direct response to Stilwell’s testimony (begins around 7:20):

It’s amateur hour not to know that North Korea has a deadline. Everybody…normal people know this. He’s wrong about nukes making North Korea less secure. The regime is insured now, that’s why they did this. That’s why they went to such ends to get it. They wouldn’t have gone to such great lengths to get nukes if it made them less secure.

So his talking points are at best wishful thinking or from another era….One of the reasons we have had recurring crises with North Korea is because we are constantly thinking…that North Korea is bluffing and that leads us to be caught off guard when they do stuff. And the surprise of getting caught off guard is directly what triggers the crisis each time there’s a crisis….

You would not have six crises in the last sixty years where we could have gone to war if not for the fact that you kept discounting what North Korea says and you were overly complacent, and he’s doing that again here. And so even if you’re right that North Korea’s bluffing, what’s the strategy? What is the endgame? Is it still just to wait out the clock?…

They have a history of bluffing, so it’s understandable why the U.S. would judge North Korea in this way, but they also have a history of occasional follow-through….

That’s all very concerning because it means we’re on track for another crisis. There has been no learning from the patterns of history, as far as I can tell.

The U.S. would be lucky if the North Korean deadline was just a bluff, but simply taking that for granted and doing nothing to avoid another crisis if it can be avoided is pure folly. Over the last three years, North Korea has been pretty clear about what they want and what they intend to do, and when they have made a point of repeating their end-of-year deadline for the last six months it seems reasonable to assume that they aren’t bluffing in this case.

At the very least, the U.S. should be offering North Korea something beyond the brain-dead demand for disarmament that the Trump administration has been making for years. According to the administration’s North Korea envoy, Steve Biegun, who has also been tapped to be Deputy Secretary of State, the goal remains “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” (CVID):

Biegun has said since then that the deadline is an “artificial one,” and that suggests that no one in the administration is taking it seriously.

Unfortunately, this administration remains wedded to an impossible goal, and it is allergic to offering sanctions relief to anyone. In the absence of some sanctions relief, North Korea will sooner or later revert to taking more provocative actions, and that will probably take us back to the heightened tensions of 2017. The full bankruptcy of “maximum pressure” is on display here. The NYT article concludes:

“You might argue, how can we reward a bad guy like North Korea?” said Jun Bong-geun, acting president of the government-run Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security in Seoul. “But sanctions and pressure alone have never worked on North Korea. You also have to offer incentives.”

Instead, the Trump administration is offering nothing while demanding everything, and as a result they are going to get a North Korea crisis in the new year.

Source: The American Conservative

  1. CHUCKMAN says

    It is very hard to see where this is going.

    Not only has the United States elected the most chaotic-minded President in its history, but he is a man who insists on becoming involved in matters everywhere, matters he is unqualified to deal with. A classic case of a person with no voice or even musical training, who insists on getting up on stage under the spotlights to perform solos convinced that he is going to astound us all by his effort.

    Unfortunately, America’s political power establishment, Republican and Democrat, is at the same time on a world-wide tear to claim a renewed sense of American supremacy, something which has been gradually eroding for decades under the natural evolution of the world’s political economy with many new players and competitors.

    So, the chaotic President has truly no Washington opposition for his reckless behavior.

    America has lived for many years with a nuclear North Korea, the country’s first known test being in 2006. It just is not one of the world’s terrible, on-the-edge problems.

    Trump selected it as an early effort at a show-stopper foreign policy win, and he has made a complete mess of it.

    It is clear that Kim is intelligent and rational – things not always attributed to his predecessors, and an important fact revealed during Trump’s efforts – and because he wants North Korea to enter into the life of the larger world, he is willing to deal in some fashion.

    But “deal” does not mean “follow orders.” The people Trump has surrounded himself confuse the two.

    The United States has given nothing to North Korea in exchange for its cooperation, and it has actually demonstrated what a barrier it is itself to Korean reconciliation. Not only has Kim been shown to be reasonable, but, in Moon, South Korea has the most open and intelligent leader it has had in the postwar period, a man willing and eager to try.

    But the United States just holds Moon back. Months ago, we heard from him frequently when he took an initiative to talk directly to Kim. Now, we do not hear from him, despite the fact that Moon and Kim seem very likely to be able to work a reconciliation out themselves.

    The United States is simply not going to allow that to happen. It wants North Korea’s surrender in effect, and on its terms, just as it wanted Japan’s “unconditional surrender” at the end of WWII.

    But they are absolutely not going to receive that from Kim.

    Will Trump again have aircraft carriers and bombers bringing daily threats? That really does seem the only room he has left open for himself, but such pressure can have no more effect on North Korea, a country that has coped with threats and sanctions for decades, than it has had on Iran, where the belligerence only renews determination to resist.

    Every time the United States takes that Trump angry-child approach to foreign affairs, it gambles irresponsibly with the lives of millions. When the military gets heavily involved anywhere, accidents can so easily happen, even “deliberate” accidents, and an accident in North Korea could mean the huge city of Seoul disappearing in a few minutes.

    Kim just has no reason to give up his weapons. Back at the height of the Korean War, the United States carpet-bombed North for three years, in effect its experiment and practice in terror for Vietnam fifteen years later. It killed one-fifth of North Korea’s entire population, and that experience provided an immense incentive for the country to develop nuclear weapons.

    You might well say that North Korea has more profound reasons, genuine ones around defense and existence, for hanging onto its weapons than does the United States. Early in the nuclear age after WWII, the United States built its weapons, not for defense – there being no other nuclear power on earth until four years after Nagasaki – but because it wanted an unholy monopoly power over the earth.

    Existential motives like North Korea’s are not given up because of threats from the likes of John Bolton or the confusing babble of Donald Trump. Odd, but the United States completely accepts such an argument in the case of Israel – which in reality has far less true existential motive than does North Korea, its nuclear weapons serving much the same purpose as did those of the United States in the early postwar period, intimidating everyone in its region with nuclear blackmail.

    But the United States cannot, as in so many matters, follow through in a logical fashion. Always, there is the irresistible urge to say that you should do this because I say you should.

    The case of Iran should have been instructive, but it was not. Iran developed not nuclear weapons, following America’s efforts to destroy the country with the bloody Iraq-Iran War it inspired and supplied through much of the 1980s, but a formidable array of non-nuclear ones.

    Trump’s angry-child act towards Iran, complete with aircraft carriers and bombers and war-like sanctions, has only provided Iran with a world showcase for its achievements in military technology with deadly accurate hi-tech missiles on land, in the air, and at sea.

    Iran’s convincing displays have created new realities for America’s bloodier regional associates like Saudi Arabia and Israel, as well as, of course, for America itself, which now keeps its big vulnerable warships a few hundred miles away from Iran’s coast and no longer arrogantly runs massive drones through its airspace. As well, it displays serious new cautions around the vulnerable production and treatment facilities of Saudi Arabia.

    Unless Washington’s madhouse of a government can get its act together – its chaotic, ineffective President, its bellowing, corrupt, aggressive Congress, plus the always-dangerous elements of the massive and not overly-accountable Pentagon and CIA – I think we will be shortly back to not only serious new ballistic missile tests by North Korea but perhaps new nuclear activity.

    A reasoned, sensible new approach from Washington does seem the least likely of outcomes. We’ve yet to see that in any of Washington’s many recent crusades and causes

    America could choose to return to what it is has lived with since 2006, letting things just quietly settle down. After all, it did that with others, including India and especially Pakistan in the past. But American assets have never really been under direct threat on the subcontinent. They are with North Korea only because the United States insists on deploying them nearby in large numbers, which again brings us to the root cause of the entire problem – America’s desire to control this entire region of Asia.

    I’m afraid America’s response could well be high-risk and dangerous, having proved itself so little capable of coherent and logical acts and policies.

  2. Canosin says

    brilliantly analyzed and summarized US foreign policy on North Korea in this article….. I doubt very much, that the coming next crisis on the Korean Peninsula will be without a diplomatic desaster for the US gubberment….. getting the North and South Koreans closer….. swapping over to Japan in their rejection of the warmongering policy of the US….. endangering the whole region incl. China and Russia… …
    it’s gonna be a complete change in reassessing the political map of the Far East….. and a declaration of political bankruptcy of the Divided States of Zionist America……

  3. FilastinHuratan says

    In every instance of its dealings with North Korea, the OUTLAW, psychopath-run, blackmailing, sanctioning, belligerent, rogue empire-in-decline, a.k.a. the U.S.A., has uttered nothing but bluff since Trump took office.

    Remember “fire and fury the world has never seen”?
    Remember “my nuclear knob is bigger than yours”?

    North Korea has manoeuvered the empire-in-decline in a corner, from which it can only emerge with dignity if it negotiates honestly and openly, AND follows through on commitment as signed off on. But those are concepts team Trump are completely ignorant of, as confirmed by their vile treason of the agreement signed in Singapore 2 years ago by Trump himself.

    NK has every incentive to keep developing those nukes because it is the only insurance policy it has and that works.

    1. Canosin says

      great comment . .. but don’t dream about the Divided States of Zionist America negotiating openly, honestly and in dignity…… will never happen

      1. FilastinHuratan says

        No, I don’t dream about that.
        I like you moniker for the empire-in-decline, it is a true reflection of what the country really is.

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