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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1944

Nuclear Stand-off between the US and North Korea: dangerous, but everyone involved loves life

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

The nuclear stand-off between the US and North Korea has taken the centre stage of the uneven platform of evolving geo-politics, amidst the worrying form of sabre-rattling between the two nations in question. Some have already started drawing a parallel between the present crisis and the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 60’s.

President Trump, as usual, takes to Twitter to vent his fury, encapsulated in a thin-layer of frustration: while being fully aware of the gravity of the issue, he seems to be angry that he has been forced to carry the can for something that actually stemmed from the decades of mis-handling of the issue by the previous US administrations: not only were there the meaningless sanctions and empty ineffective threats, but also the policy makers were clueless as to what to do to bring the issue to a close once and for all, instead of letting it to be dragged on for generations to come.

President Trump has a valid point, when he blames the crisis on the previous administration: Susan Rice, the former National Security Adviser to President Obama, for instance, rubbished the notion of North Korea having nuclear weapons, as if it was not a big deal, in an article published in the New York Times this week, a fact that reflects the attitude of the former administration.

North Korea, meanwhile, on its part, upped the ante, after being hit by another wave of sanctions, which has the potential to deal a crippling blow to its economy. Although, it says that Guam, where the sprawling US military base, Andersen Air Force Base, lies in, is on its cross-hairs, the real move seems to be firing missiles of intermediate range into the international waters, just beyond the boundary of the island – as an act of humiliation, which does not constitute an act of war.

In the event of the crisis going past the rhetoric stage, however, it is going to be irreversible: in a matter of minutes, two nations, South Korea and Japan, are going to be part of it, perhaps unwillingly and left with no choice; only does our Maker know how it is going to evolve from there.

If Mr Kim wants to launch the ballistic missiles into the international waters near Guam, they have to go over Japan to for a reliable, in the absence of an alternative route of the same kind. Japan has made it clear that they had the right to shoot down anything that enters its airspace. If North Korea treats it as an act of war, that could be the beginning of the war that everyone dreads.

Since the three allies in the conflict on one side – the US, South Korea and Japan – are fully functioning democracies, headed by elected politicians – with their own long-term political ambitions – it is not clear how far they are prepared to take their respective countries along the dangerous path, less travelled.

Kim Jong-un, the young leader of North Korea, too has a whole life before him and may not be prepared to commit suicide by embarking on a reckless move, while knowing very well he could not emerge victorious.
The US, meanwhile, appeared to have prepared itself for the worst: it has been showing off its lethal supersonic bombers, a sort of derivative of deadly B-52 - something that I programmed to fly from the bottom of this screen - which are capable of carrying nuclear bombs, at its Guam base.

At present, Mr Kim could count on his people, whom had been subjected to decades of brainwashing. Nazis managed to do the same – but only up to a point. When a serious conflict breaks out and suffering takes its toll on the population, however, things do change and both patriotism and nationalism evaporate into thin air, as individual fight for survival brings about the inhibition of social instincts.

In this context, the anxieties of China are understandable too. When the conflict spills over its border, the government will not be in a position to gauge the mood – or change of it – of its people, despite the relatively-strong nationalistic feelings among the vast population; it could change too and take unprecedented turns, while in unchartered waters.

The Global Times, the government-backed newspaper, summed up the position of China in no uncertain terms this week: it will prevent the US from launching an attack on North Korea first; however, if North Korea is the first to attack, China will remain neutral. In short, China will not just stand by, if the US simply wants a regime-change in North Korea.

The possibility of launching a pre-emptive attack got hampered further, when cracks appeared in the US administration over the strategy: Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of the State, for instance, wants to pursue a diplomatic line to diffuse the tension; Jim Mattis, the Secretary of Defence, who visits his mother, a nonagenarian, every week, is talking about the consequences of unimaginable human losses in the event of a nuclear strike; Dr Sebastian Gorka, a senior White House Official, meanwhile, criticized Mr Tillerson’s peace overtures, only to backpedal hours later.

In short, the only reliable position with regard to the crisis is what we get from the tweets of President Trump. All in all, there is very little surprise as to why the allies, including the NATO, cannot make a collective declaration, highlighting their position.

- Asian Tribune -

Nuclear Stand-off between the US and North Korea: dangerous, but everyone involved loves life
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