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Sunday, December 23, 2017

North Korea May Have Just Blinked

So how come the news media didn't notice?

I 've been searching in vain for any news sites that noticed what might be the most significant development in the North Korean missile crisis in the past decade. The only mention was in a few obscure news sites where it was reported that Kim said last week his nuclear bomb development program was "complete."

The Hill quoted Kim as saying North Korea has “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

If true, it is a telling statement. It could mean that Kim is looking for a way to back down. If his missile program is “complete,” it would mean there is no longer any need to test them. His next logical statement would be to say there's no further need to test any nuclear bombs or launch any more missiles. Of course, he still might; logic is not Kim's strong point.

The news media seem focused on the possibility of war. Fox Business has John Bolton asking whether a pre-emptive strike is necessary. There's a story about troops practicing for a ground invasion. One report suggested that N.K. was testing mounting anthrax on its missiles. And there are reports of people in northeast China building shelters.

These stories suggest that the US government is serious about wanting North Korea to stop its provocative behavior. This represents a dramatic change by President Trump, whose predecessors preferred negotiations and bribes. It seems that Kim Jong-un saw these for what they were: an admission that the world is not really serious about defending its interests.

What puzzles observers is the question of what N.K. could possibly have hoped to gain by attacking the United States. The most likely scenario for them is a failed attack, such as launching a missile against Guam and having it land a few hundred miles offshore. If the United States recovers the missile and concludes that nuclear material was on board, it would be taken as hard evidence of a first strike attempt by N.K. and would guarantee a military response. In fact, any launch of a nuclear warhead by N.K., whether it reaches its target or not, would guarantee such a response, and the N.K. military probably knows it.

The report on thehill.com says “it's unclear if it carried [a warhead] during the most recent test.” Clearly it did not, as North Korea still exists.

It is, of course, possible that N.K. would try to trick outsiders, perhaps by putting small amounts of radioactive material on board, or by deliberately launching one at our missile defense system in order to test America's capabilities. China has a strong interest in the results of such a test, and this could be one reason why they have been so slow to intervene.

In responding vigorously to a missile whose trajectory intersects with US territory, or any missile found to contain radioactive material, the USA would have the support of much of the world. The Americans' goal would be to destroy N.K.'s government and military infrastructure while minimizing civilian casualties. This is easily within their capabilities.

The media, however, seem obsessed with laying the groundwork for blaming Donald Trump in case things turn nasty. Yahoo news calls it “a year of erratic U.S. rhetoric.” The New York Times quotes “experts” as saying the sanctions are unlikely to work, and published an op-ed calling Trump's strategy a “farce.” Clearly it's not. Instead it may be the beginnings of a new doctrine of taking well considered stands and demonstrating that the United States is serious about them. I'm not sure I can get used to that.

dec 23, 2017, 5:46 am

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