Deter and Contain

9 August 2017

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

US DIA Says North Korea Has Miniaturized Nuke

Yesterday, the Washington Post followed by other media outlets reported that the US Defense Intelligence Agency believes the North Koreans have successfully miniaturized a nuclear bomb. The explosive device now fits on Pyongyang's intercontinental ballistic missiles, bringing the continental US into range of a fission bomb. The Trump administration is finally facing a serious problem in international affairs, and the president doesn't seem to know what to do.

One must preface this by noting, as Rachel Maddow did on MSNBC last night, that the DIA said in 2014, when General Michael Flynn was in charge, that the North Koreans had this capacity. So, perhaps the DIA is jumping the gun again. The lack of dissent from Seoul or Tokyo suggests otherwise, and it might be that the UNSC resolution tightening sanctions on North Korea got positive votes from Beijing and Moscow because the DIA is right.

If the DIA is wrong, it won't be wrong in the future. The North Koreans want to have a nuclear-tipped ICBM. There is nothing short of a major war that will stop it. A major war will create the kind of death and destruction that make disarming the North pointless. It will be a case of destroying the Korean Peninsula to save it.

Mr. Trump threw gasoline on the fire yesterday when word about the DIA's perspective became public. Mr. Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, NJ. "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He [President Kim] has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with fire and fury, and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before."

Mr. Kim was hardly terrified by this bluster. Shortly after Mr. Trump spoke, the North promised an attack on the American territory of Guam, "an enveloping fire" as Pyongyang put it. One American commentator said President Kim was blowing through Mr. Trump's redlines like tissue paper.

The trouble is that Mr. Trump has said he won't tolerate a North Korean nuclear ICBM, but it would appear that North Korea has one. Accepting reality is not among Mr. Trump's virtues, and the more unpleasant the fact the less likely he is to accept it.

Nevertheless, that is where a de-escalation begins. In order to get rid of North Korea's nuclear missiles, the US and whatever allies it can muster would have to engage in a ground war of horrible magnitude. So, the missiles must be part of the equation.

Deterrence and containment worked against the Soviet Union, and there is reason to believe they will succeed here. Mr. Kim is not a jihadi anxious to die. In fact, he is likely to be afraid of just about any threat to his power and survival. He is a nasty gangster, not a suicide bomber, and that means he is a rational actor. He will act to preserve himself and his regime. As appalling as it is, discussions aimed at reassuring him are in order.

The Korean War is still going on. Legally, the 1953 end of fighting was an armistice. There is no peace treaty. So, the time may have come to discuss ending that war formally. A moratorium on nuclear tests, missile launches and wargames on the Korean Peninsula should be agreed, and then, talks on ending the war should follow.

Would Mr. Kim still rattle sabres? If he had a reason to do so, he certainly would. But de-escalation means that there is a lessened chance of war by error. In the end, freedom will prevail. It's a matter of waiting him out. Threatening "fire and fury" doesn't help.

© Copyright 2017 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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