The Merchant Is Clueless on Iran and North Korea

Trump Is Clueless on Iran and North Korea

Two of the world’s most perilous hot spots are about to catch fire, and Trump has no strategy for dousing the flames.

Fred KaplanJan 02, 20203:49 PM

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images and Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

President Donald Trump enters the new year—his year of reelection or rejection—with two of the world’s most perilous hot spots about to catch fire and with no strategy on how to douse the flames.

Iran and North Korea are once again inspiring banner headlines, and not in the ways that Trump had hoped for in 2019. He believed that “maximum pressure” would prod the mullahs of Tehran to come crawling back to the bargaining table—or, better still, to be ousted from power—and that his putative friendship with Kim Jong-un would unleash a new era of peace and disarmament in northeast Asia. But if anything, the opposite has occurred, either in spite or because of Trump’s actions.

North Korea poses Trump’s most intractable problem—and highlights his most mortifying folly. For a year and a half, ever since first meeting with Kim in Singapore, Trump has been singing the praises of the world’s cruelest dictator, heralding him as a “great leader” and a “man of his word” and fully expecting him to “denuclearize” without so much as defining the term.

But Kim ushered in 2020 with a seven-hour stemwinder to fellow members of the ruling Workers’ Party, outlining a new course of “arduous and protracted struggle” with the West and announcing, most dramatically, an end to his self-imposed moratorium—in effect for the past two years—on testing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

Trump has waved away North Korea’s recent tests of several short-range missiles, despite the fact that they violated U.N. Security Council resolutions and unnerved our allies in South Korea and Japan. To Trump, as long as Kim held to his pledge not to test-fire long-range missiles (i.e., missiles that could hit the United States), all was well.

So what happens now if Kim tests precisely such a missile and maybe resumes testing nuclear weapons too? Will Trump realize what everyone else has known for 18 months—that the man with whom he “fell in love” after Singapore has, all along, been taking him for a ride? He’s played to Trump’s ego, writing him “beautiful letters” while continuing to expand his nuclear arsenal and sow divisions between the United States and its allies in the region. If Trump experiences this epiphany, how will he react to the betrayal and humiliation? Kim probably thinks Trump won’t react at all: He hasn’t responded with much force to any other provocation in the world; moreover, Kim might think, Trump is unlikely to start a war in Asia amid his impeachment trial and election campaign. Kim might be right, but wars have been sparked by less drastic miscalculations.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, thousands of Iranian-backed militiamen spent New Year’s Eve smashing into the U.S. Embassy while chanting “Death to America.” The demonstrators pulled back two days later, after the Iraqi government—which initially let them cross into the Green Zone surrounding the embassy—pressured the leaders of Kataib Hezbollah, the main militia. Trump, who responded to the incident by ordering 4,000 more U.S. troops into Iraq, took the end of the siege as a triumph—“the Anti-Benghazi,” as he proclaimed.

Trump seems to think that the end of the siege marked an eclipse of Iranian strength, tweeting, “To those many millions of people in Iraq who want freedom and who don’t want to be dominated and controlled by Iran, this is your time!” This is naïve. Iranian influence in Iraq’s politics is immovably strong; it has been since the aftermath of the U.S. invasion in 2003; and the incident that precipitated this week’s siege probably strengthened its hold.

The spurring incident was a series of U.S. airstrikes against Kataib Hezbollah targets, killing 24 people and injuring dozens more. The strikes were meant as retaliation to a militia missile attack that killed an American contractor. But the commander of Iraq’s armed forces, who apparently wasn’t consulted about the airstrikes, condemned them afterward as a “stab in the back.” For the previous three months, protesters held massive demonstrations in the streets of Baghdad and throughout southern Iraq against, among other things, Iran’s excessive influence on its government. But the U.S. airstrikes—which killed Iraqis on Iraqi territory—allowed pro-Iran forces to stage their own protests and to show that they can be rallied to do so anytime, on a moment’s notice.

In his dealings with both Iran and North Korea, Trump has displayed a cluelessness about the causes of the crises. Iran’s recent eruptions probably would have been avoided if Trump hadn’t withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal, reimposed economic sanctions against Iran, and—to compound the aggravation—imposed further sanctions on any country that did business with Iran. The nuclear deal, signed in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama and the leaders of five other nations, required Iran to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure—in exchange for which those nations would lift sanctions. International inspectors attested several times that Iran was obeying the terms of the deal, dismantling its nuclear program; as a result, the other nations started lifting sanctions—until Trump intervened, against the advice of all his top officials, mainly because he couldn’t bear to continue abiding by Obama’s signal diplomatic achievement.

For a while, the Iranians tried to persuade the other signatories—France, Britain, Germany, Russia, and China—to keep their side of the bargain and to continue trade, but U.S. sanctions were too stiff for them to bypass. So Tehran stepped up pressure in the politico-military sphere, hoping to bring Trump back to the bargaining table. Some top Iranian officials hoped to drive a wedge between Trump and some of his advisers, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then–national security adviser John Bolton, who were clearly pressing for “regime change” in Iran. But if Trump differed from his advisers on this point, he put forth no other ideas on how to resume relations—so the crisis festered and intensified.

Similarly, the crisis in eastern Asia is aggravated by Trump’s refusal to recognize that North Korea is a nuclear power—which, like other nuclear powers, can be deterred and contained—and that Kim has no intention of changing that fact. Trump seems to believe that Kim signed “a contract” in Singapore to “denuclearize” North Korea. But in fact, he pledged in that summit’s joint statement merely to “work toward” denuclearizing “the Korean Peninsula”—which, as some North Korean officials subsequently explained, involves removing all military units capable of carrying nuclear weapons from all areas within firing range of Korea. This would mean dismantling almost all American nuclear weapons, and that isn’t going to happen, not in exchange for eliminating North Korea’s relatively puny arsenal.

North Korea and Iran are among the most intractable regimes on earth, but there are ways of conducting diplomacy with both. President Bill Clinton managed to negotiate the Agreed Framework, a pact that froze North Korea’s nuclear program for eight years. Obama and his partners negotiated the seemingly less likely Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the formal name for the Iran nuclear deal).

One problem is that no one in the Trump administration has any experience in negotiating with those countries. Another problem is that Trump doesn’t care. He has said several times that he knows more about making deals than any of his diplomats, and he might even believe it’s true. Many of our ablest career civilians, in the diplomatic corps and in the Pentagon, have been fired or have simply fled, and few with any talent have taken their place.

North Korea, Iran, and many other hot spots are hard problems for the most expert and dedicated public servants to solve. Without such public servants, they’re impossible.

Update, Jan. 2, 2020: This article was updated to note that nuclear powers like North Korea can be deterred and contained.

Korea Continues Nuclear Missile Tests

North Korea threatens to resume nuclear and ICBM testingAFP

Mr Kim warns he’s got a new strategic weapon up his sleeve

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said he is ending the suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests put in place during talks with the US.

Mr Kim also said his country would soon introduce “a new strategic weapon”.

But he left a door open for dialogue, and said the scope of any testing would depend on the US’s “attitude”.

The momentum of the past few years has stalled, as Washington refuses to lift sanctions until Pyongyang fully abandons its nuclear programme.

The North conducted several smaller weapons tests late in 2019, in what was seen as an attempt to pressure the US into making concessions.

But the self-declared moratorium on nuclear tests and tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could reach the US mainland had been one of the foundations of the negotiations with Washington.

Pyongyang has not carried out such tests since 2017.

• North Korea’s missile and nuclear programme

• North Korea crisis in 300 words

What did Mr Kim say?

Mr Kim’s comments came at the end of a four-day gathering of party leaders in Pyongyang, an unusual event for this time of the year.

On 1 January, state media reported him as saying North Korea was no longer bound by the self-declared moratorium, as the US continued joint military drills with South Korea and had stepped up their sanctions.

“Under such condition, there is no ground for us to get unilaterally bound to the commitment any longer, the commitment to which there is no opposite party, and this is chilling our efforts for worldwide nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,” news agency KCNA quoted him as saying.

He threatened that “the world will witness a new strategic weapon” from the North “in the near future”, while giving no further details.

• North Korea carries out ‘very important test’

• North Korea attacks Trump’s ‘dotage of a dotard’


North Korea tested several smaller missiles in 2019

Mr Kim’s comments to the party meeting also admitted that sanctions have hit the economy and were unlikely to be lifted soon, warning that North Koreans will have to “tighten our belts”.

The North Korean leader did not, however, mention Donald Trump or South Korea by name, seen by observers as a toning-down of language compared to the aggressive rhetoric of recent months.

The comments were “notable for falling short of directly tearing up the April 2018 moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests”, Chad O’Carroll of North Korea analysis site NK News told the BBC.

“Instead, Mr Kim’s remarks implied that such resumed testing will be contingent on US actions in the weeks and months ahead.”

Why did he say it?

Mr Kim’s published comments appear to have taken the place of his usual New Year’s Day speech.

Previous addresses have signalled changes in policy direction to Pyongyang’s international adversaries and this year’s comments appear to have a similar role.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un: From enemies to frenemies

“Kim Jong-un knows that President Trump faces an election campaign soon and that renewed North Korean ICBM and nuclear testing would be a major foreign policy embarrassment for the White House,” said Mr O’Carroll.

“The remarks delivered today communicate a simple message to Washington: provide us with major concessions soon if you want to avoid long-range missile tests during the election campaign.”

There is little indication the White House will give in to that pressure, he adds, so “we appear headed toward significant turbulence in the year ahead”.

How did the US respond?

As he headed into a New Year event in Florida, Mr Trump told reporters that he and Mr Kim “did sign a contract, talking about denuclearisation”.

“I think he’s a man of his word,” he said.

US Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo said he hoped the North would choose peace over war.

“If Chairman Kim has reneged on the commitments he made to President Trump, that is deeply disappointing,” Mr Pompeo told US broadcaster CBS.

“He made those commitments to President Trump in exchange for President Trump agreeing not to conduct large-scale military exercises. We’ve lived up to our commitments. We continue to hold out hope that he will live up to his as well.”

How did we get here?

• Throughout 2017, North Korea tests nuclear devices and ICBMs able to reach the US mainland.

• On 1 January 2018, Kim Jong-un says he’s “open to dialogue” with both South Korea and the United States.

• June 2018: Mr Kim and Mr Trump hold historic face-to-face talks in Singapore, agreeing on denuclearisation in vague, unspecific terms.

• Kim Jong-un also meets with South Korean President Moon several times, including once in North Korea.

• In February 2019, he meets Donald Trump again in Vietnam but the talks end early without agreement.

• In June that year, they have an “impromptu” but largely symbolic meeting at the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea.

But relations between the US and North Korea have deteriorated in the months leading up to 2020.

President Trump: “Stepping across that line was a great honour”

Already in May, North Korea had started testing short-range missiles again – though not the long-range missiles capable of reaching the US, which are more controversial – and more recently, the language between the two sides has grown increasingly hostile.

Pyongyang had set Washington an end-of-year deadline to offer sanctions relief, threatening that the US could expect a “Christmas gift” if it did not comply.

So far though, Washington has refused to lift sanctions, insisting that North Korea must first fully abandon its nuclear programme.

Germans Should Worry About Trump

Germans think Trump is more dangerous to world peace than Kim Jong Un and Putin: survey

By Zack Budryk

December 26, 2019 – 08:00 PM EST

Germans think Trump is more dangerous to world peace than Kim Jong Un and Putin: survey

A new YouGov survey found Germans consider President Trump more dangerous to world peace than North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un or Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the German broadcaster DW.

Asked to rank the greatest threat to world peace between Trump, Kim, Putin, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Chinese President Xi Jinping, 41 percent named Trump, compared to Kim at 17 percent, Khamenei and Putin at 8 percent and Xi at 7 percent.

Pollsters surveyed 2,000 Germans for the poll between Dec. 16 and 18.

The results were similar to a YouGov poll published in July 2018, although the earlier survey did not include Xi or Khamenei as options.

The poll comes after a contentious NATO summit in London with several European allies, during which Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was filmed apparently joking about the lengths of Trump’s joint press conferences in a conversation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emanuel Macron.

Trump is Correct: Don’t Worry About North Korea

Trump downplays concerns of North Korea’s ‘Christmas gift’ with officials on alert

After months of stalled nuclear negotiations and ratcheting up rhetoric, North Korea has promised to deliver a “Christmas gift” to the U.S. — a warning that has American and South Korean officials on high alert this week for a potential long-range missile test.

But President Donald Trump dismissed those concerns Tuesday, joking that the gift could be a “beautiful vase.”

“Maybe it’s a nice present. Maybe it’s a present where he sends me a beautiful vase, as opposed to a missile test, right? I may get him a vase — I may get a nice present from him,” he told reporters at his resort Mar-a-Lago. He added that whatever it is, the U.S. will deal with it “successfully.”

Speculation has stirred about what the gift could be, including rumors of a satellite test, a solid-fuel rocket, an announced change in policy or an intercontinental ballistic missile.

If it’s an ICBM, it would be the first long-range missile test in over two years, which is not only another flagrant violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions on Pyongyang, but also a breach of Kim Jong Un’s personal pledge to Trump not to test such weapons.

That could mean a swift unraveling of Trump’s diplomatic efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, perhaps even a return to his days of threatening “fire and fury” on “Little Rocket Man.”

The threat of a test even has commercial airliners on edge. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration issued an alert earlier this month warning of “longer-range missile test launches prior to the end of 2019, or in the early part of 2020,” according to a threat analysis obtained by ABC News.

In a Dec. 3 statement, North Korea’s vice minister of foreign affairs said, “What is left to be done now is the U.S. option and it is entirely up to the U.S. what Christmas gift it will select to get.”

The “option” that North Korea wants is the U.S. abandoning its “hostile policies” of demanding North Korea’s nuclear disarmament and refusing to provide sanctions relief until it starts to do so — something the Trump administration says it will not do.

The ultimatum echoed one from Kim himself in April, telling Trump that he would wait until the end of the year for the U.S. to be more flexible and take a new approach to their talks. The two leaders’ second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, last February ended when Kim offered to dismantle the nuclear facility at Yongbyon in exchange for an end to U.N. economic sanctions. That would have left North Korea’s secret nuclear sites and its nuclear arsenal, so Trump walked away.

The two leaders have stayed on friendly terms, meeting again in June in a historic face-to-face at the Demilitarized Zone between the Koreas. Trump tweeted on Dec. 8 that Kim “is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way.”

But with talks deadlocked, the regime’s rhetoric has increasingly soured.

Earlier this month, they crossed a symbolic threshold and attacked Trump personally, calling him a “heedless and erratic old man” in a statement from Kim Yong Chol — the former nuclear negotiator and spy chief, whose return could also represent a turn back towards belligerency.

Beyond words, North Korea has launched more than two dozen missiles, nearly all short-range except for one ballistic missile capable of being launched from a submarine in October. All of the missiles have used solid propellants, making them more flexible, harder to detect in advance, and technologically a step ahead from the liquid-fueled rockets North Korea has traditionally used.

Trump has consistently downplayed those tests as insignificant, even as they violate U.N. resolutions and threaten key allies South Korea and Japan and the tens of thousands of U.S. troops they host.

Speculation on the “Christmas gift” has focused on a long-range missile. Gen. Charles Brown, U.S. Pacific Air Forces commander, said last week that he expects “some kind of long-range ballistic missile” test.

The Pentagon will have to move assets to be prepared for the launch, taking away needed resources for higher priorities.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander “Admiral (Phil) Davidson now has to take strategic Naval assets off his top priority, China, in order to protect an American territory, Guam, and a state, Hawaii, from a potential missile attack,” said Eric “Olly” Oehlerich, a retired Navy SEAL and ABC News national security consultant.

But launching a long-range missile would be especially provocative, risking drawing the ire of allies China and Russia and stirring U.N. condemnation. It would also leave Pyongyang with few options for escalation and could force Trump’s hand to a hardline approach, according to the Korea Institute for National Unification, a South Korean think tank.

Instead, North Korea may also test a solid-fuel rocket or sea-based ballistic missile — both of which are more difficult for U.S. intelligence to detect in advance.

Either way, U.S. officials have warned Kim against a possible launch. Chief U.S. negotiator Stephen Biegun warned last week, “To say the least, such an action will be most unhelpful in achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

Biegun was in South Korea, Japan and China for meetings, but did not meet any North Korean counterparts. He last met a delegation in Stockholm on Oct. 4-5, but after some productive discussions, the North Koreans walked and accused the U.S. of failing to change its hardline approach.

“It is time for us to do our jobs. Let’s get this done. We are here, and you know how to reach us,” Biegun said in Seoul last Monday.

ABC News’s Ben Gittleson, Luis Martinez, and Josh Margolin contributed to this report.

Report a correction or typo

The South Korean Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Revealed: We Now Know Why America Sent Nuclear Weapons To South Korea

Key point: America had nuclear weapons in South Korea until 1991.

The day was January 17, 1957, and Assistant Secretary of State Walter Robertson had a nagging worry that his boss, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, wouldn’t go toe-to-toe with the Pentagon on the subject of introducing nuclear weapons into South Korea. The State Department, Robertson wrote in a memo to Dulles, remained unequivocally opposed to deploying atomic weapons on the Korean Peninsula. “In my opinion the introduction of atomic weapons into Korea, whether accompanied by nuclear components or not, in this time of world tension would have serious adverse repercussions throughout the Far East…,” Robertson opined. The military benefit was simply not worth the political costs.

The next day, Secretary Dulles met with Defense Secretary Charles Wilson and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Arthur Radford and delivered some of those same points. Dulles, no Cold War peacenik, told his colleagues that it would be very difficult to convince Washington’s allies that sending U.S. nuclear weapons into the South was an appropriate response to perceived North Korean violations of the Armistice Agreement. The Joint Chiefs didn’t buy the argument: Pyongyang, Radford claimed, was throwing the military balance off-kilter. The only way the United States could mitigate the situation was by flying in strategic weapons on the other side of the Armistice line.

Both of these documents, newly declassified, is only a portion of the new cache released by the National Security Archive on November 20 detailing the fierce inter-agency debate about whether stationing U.S. nuclear arms in South Korea was an appropriate U.S. policy. The memos and meeting records depict a fairly consistent picture of the military brass and senior Pentagon leadership pushing for the deployment, the State Department pushing back, and President Dwight Eisenhower playing the marriage counselor between the two urging for more debate before a final decision was made one way or the other.  Ultimately, Washington would indeed station nuclear arms in the South. But according to the newly released correspondence, the State Department was never convinced that the deployment was necessary or appropriate.

Senior State Department officials, up to and including Secretary Dulles, were focused on the big picture throughout the Eisenhower administration’s debate: how would the introduction of nukes into South Korea be interpreted by the Communists; would Washington appear as if it blatantly violated the Armistice Agreement and escalated the situation; and would U.S. allies in Europe and Asia support sending the world’s most powerful weapons to one of the world’s most dangerous Cold War flashpoint? Assistant Secretary Robertson, writing again to Secretary Dulles, was extremely troubled about how the international community would react and recommended that he explain to the Pentagon “the dangerous consequences to our position with our Allies, in the United Nations, and before the world, were we to lay ourselves open to the charge of having violated the Korean Armistice and having greatly introduced tensions in the Far East…”

Nearly two months later, Robert R. Bowie, the Director of the Policy Planning Staff at the State Department, penned a memo outlining his strong beliefs about the negative consequences of a nuclear deployment. “Even on the proposed rationale—to redress the military balance—there has been no showing that Communist strength in North Korea has been increased to an extent requiring us to station nuclear weapons in Korea,” Bowie wrote. It was the same line of argument Dulles used himself during an April 4, 1957 National Security Council meeting with President Eisenhower in attendance: “Secretary Dulles…asked the question whether it was really worthwhile to be regarded by our friends and allies as violators of a solemn international agreement simply in order to get these two particular weapons in the hands of our forces in Korea.”

Dulles’ concerns were partly correct. Australia and New Zealand, for instance, expressed worry during conversations with U.S. representatives that Seoul would be permitted to operate dual-use weapons under their own command. The French “would want to be assured that U.S. not going beyond Communist actions as to character items to be introduced,” the U.S. Embassy reported back to Washington. If the United States was indeed going to put nukes in South Korea, Washington’s allies and partners needed to be wined and dined.

We all know how this story ended.  The South would host U.S.-controlled nuclear arms for decades until President George H.W. Bush unilaterally pulled them out in 1991. It has been U.S. policy ever since to achieve a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula, an objective that may very well have left the barn the moment the Kim regime conducted its first underground nuclear test more than 13 years ago.

The deliberations within the U.S. national security bureaucracy leading up to Eisenhower’s final call, however, was far more spirited than previously understood. The State Department may have lost the battle to the Pentagon, but not without a fight.

Daniel DePetris is a fellow at Defense Priorities, a foreign policy organization focused on promoting a realistic grand strategy to ensure American security and prosperity. This article first appeared last month.

Image: Reuters.

According to Prophecy Nuclear War With North Korea Will NOT Happen

Is War with North Korea Unavoidable?

Key point: Pyongyang might not be subject to the same constraints as other nuclear regimes.

Many believe that North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons, along with its conventional arsenal, rules out war.

A conflict would indeed prove more horrific than many apprehend, and being enthused by the prospect of another Korean war would truly be insane. However, what is even more insane is telling the President of the United States that the greatest nation in history, and all its 300 million+ citizens, must live in the shadow of annihilation at the whims of a sadistic cult. This is simply not going to happen, and observers insisting that there is no military option ignore reality and all senior members of this administration and the president himself. The United States will not live with a North Korea that can destroy American cities with a nuclear-tipped ICBM, end of story.

Those arguing against war insist that traditional nuclear deterrence with North Korea can work, just like with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Before proceeding everyone should re-read the last paragraph and understand fully that their argument is an academic exercise and not a realistic course of action. They are also totally wrong, for these reasons:

1. Deterrence has already failed

North Korea’s nuclear weapons are not merely about regime survival, for all would agree that its existing capabilities are more than sufficient for dissuading unprovoked regime change. Rather, it seeks mutual nuclear vulnerability with the United States to prevent military responses to North Korea’s current and future aggression towards U.S. allies in the region.

This is already being demonstrated. On September 14, North Korea stated that:

“The four islands of the [Japanese] archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche. Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.”

Hardly a declaration that nuclear weapons are for deterrence! The very next day residents on Hokkaido island received a text – ‘a missile from North Korea has been detected, take cover.’

Any suggestion that there is a ‘lock step’ allied response to these provocations is absurd. Imagine it was Hawaii that North Korea proclaimed would be ‘sunk’ and American citizens receiving texts with missiles flying overhead. Washington’s response would be starkly different.

Maybe North Korea could be deterred from launching a nuclear weapon directly against the United States (and none can be certain of that). Once North Korea possesses dozens of nuclear-tipped ICBMs, however, it can attack U.S. allies and even embark on a second Korean war knowing there isn’t a thing the United States can do about it without inviting a massive and unacceptable nuclear retaliation. This fact is not lost on Japan, Korea, or even Australia. Consequently, U.S. alliances in Asia will fast unravel.

2. North Korea is not the Soviet Union or China

This seemed so obvious that when the comparison was first made I regrettably ignored it. Since then there has been an increasing number of deterrence advocates who use the Soviet Union or China as examples to support their case.

(NOTE: This first appeared in 2017.)

Starting with the basics, deterrence can only exist when an adversary would have undertaken the action if not for the deterrent. In the case of China, there was never a prospect of Mao launching a nuclear strike against the United States, regardless of America’s own nuclear arsenal. Nor did America’s nuclear weapons deter China in any way – China fought the Korean war decades before the taboo against nuclear use had been established, and at a time when China did not even possess nuclear weapons!

Moreover, the capabilities and doctrine between Mao’s China and North Korea could not be more different. China did not possess any means of delivering a nuclear weapon to the United States until long after bilateral relations had been normalized. China also instituted a minimum-deterrent and no-first-use policy (maintained to this day), targeted at no specific country. Meanwhile, North Korea pursues nuclear ICBMs with gusto and constantly threatens the United States with nuclear destruction. Certainly, those in the 1960s who insisted that America could not live with a nuclear-armed China were fools, but to draw that comparison with North Korea today is spurious.

The Soviet case is equally broken. For most of the Cold War, the United States believed itself the conventionally inferior party that had to compensate with nuclear weapons. America’s objective was not to deter a Soviet nuclear attack but rather an invasion of Western Europe. Soviet domination of Western Europe would have posed such an existential threat to the United States that it was credible for America to initiate a nuclear war to prevent it. This credibility was underscored by the fact that two European NATO allies possessed their own nuclear deterrents and could retaliate to an attack on behalf of themselves.

By contrast, it is not credible that the United States will incur large-scale nuclear attack from North Korea on behalf of South Korea or even Japan. Unification of the peninsula under Pyongyang would not threaten America’s existence. The North Koreans know this and will therefore not be deterred.

Others say that Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) is the answer. The reason being that deterrence by punishment (nuclear retaliation) can be combined with deterrence by denial (thwarting an attack) to effectively deter hostile aggression. After all, if North Korea believes that America can shoot down its ICBMs, it is less likely to engage in hostile acts in the first place.

Again, this is wrong. The hostile reaction of China and Russia to BMD aside, missile defense is more like a Kevlar vest than an impregnable bank vault – the bad guy will still shoot at you, you are hoping to reduce some of the damage. It will take decades of proven efficacy before long-range BMD systems have any deterrent effect at all. In the interim, BMD systems must be assessed as an operational capability, not a strategic one.

However, the most significant issue is that nuclear deterrence simply doesn’t work the same way in the context of a major power-weak state dyad. Nuclear deterrence was effective with Russia and China because both saw themselves as massive and great civilizations in which nuclear weapons were guarantors of ultimate security, not instruments of first response. The risk of uncontrolled escalation created a disincentive against threatening the core interests of rival nuclear powers, and reduced (but hardly eliminated) the threat of major power war.

The incentive for North Korea is exactly opposite. Far from avoiding threatening America’s core interests, doing so directly advances Pyongyang’s own strategic goals. This is because the costs to the United States of intervening will greatly outweigh those of acquiescing to what are, relative to major power competitors, modest North Korean objectives (even though the long-term consequences for the United States’ position in Asia is profound). Moreover, unlike with America’s major power rivals, any level of American military intervention taken against North Korea would necessarily be interpreted by Pyongyang as an existential threat to regime survival, meaning that dramatic escalation is assured and not merely a risk. In short, North Korea will increasingly engage in hostile aggression below the nuclear threshold, without fear of conflict. The bottom line is that the United States will be deterred, not North Korea, despite the wide gap between their respective nuclear capabilities.

A better example than China or Russia would be India and Pakistan, were Pakistan only aggressive toward distant Indian allies and not India itself. It is inconceivable that India would incur a major nuclear exchange on behalf of these allies, and therefore Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal would serve as a deterrent for India, but not the other way around, thereby encouraging Pakistani hostility.

The differing nature of each country’s political system should not be ignored either. In the case of both Russia and China, there is an advanced political structure in which the leaders who emerge have risen during a long career. These individuals must possess a degree of reason, patience, and resilience as pre-requisite of their station. In the case of North Korea, however, the requisite qualities are dynastic pedigree, personality worship, and absolute brutality – hardly a dependable catalog for nuclear restraint. Deterrence advocates rely heavily on Kim Jong-Un’s rationality to support their case. Leaving aside the fact that nuclear first use by North Korea could be rational, given the nature of the regime it is irrational for a U.S. president to stake millions of American lives on this assumption.

In timeless wisdom, the Ancient Greek historian Thucydides outlined the three causes of war: fear, honor, and interest. All three are at play on the Korean peninsula. The United States fears a North Korean nuclear weapon could detonate over an American city. Its status as a major power in Asia and credibility as an ally is on the line. And it has profound interests in North Korea not becoming an established nuclear power.

At present, only two nations can credibly threaten the United States with nuclear destruction, Russia, and China. A North Korean nuclear ICBM is entry to a very exclusive club. If this picture seems wrong instinctively, it is. Some with impressive nuclear resumes believe traditional nuclear deterrence strategies are adaptable to North Korea. They are totally wrong about this, and no-one should be seduced by this fantasy.

The Rising South Korean Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

South Korea’s then-foreign minister, Song Min-soon, speaks during an interview in Seoul in October 2007. | BLOOMBERG

South Korea developing its own nukes one solution to U.S. cost-sharing demands, ex-top diplomat says

Jesse JohnsonNov 12, 2019

With Washington reportedly demanding that South Korea pay more to have U.S. troops stationed in the country, a former South Korean foreign minister says he has a solution for Seoul: the development of its own nuclear arsenal.

Song Min-soon, who also once served as the country’s chief negotiator for the six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, suggested in an editorial Monday in the JoongAng Ilbo daily that one way Seoul could seek to share the base-hosting burden is by building up its own arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons.

It’s necessary for South Korea to move on to a self-reliant alliance from a dependent alliance,” he wrote, adding that “a defensive nuclear capacity, with a missile range limited to the Korean Peninsula, is justified.”

Song wrote that military imbalances on the Korean Peninsula “are due to (the North’s) nuclear capabilities, not conventional arms,” noting that the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” currently is employed to deter North Korea and protect the South from attack.

But, he said, with reported demands that Seoul cough up even more cash for the stationing of U.S. forces in the South — and the repercussions of acceding to these demands — it was time to “reconsider” the building of its own nukes, specifically “limited tactical nuclear weapons.”

U.S. President Donald Trump, whose view of allies as freeloaders is well known, is now reportedly pushing for an unprecedented fivefold increase in South Korea’s contribution, stoking concerns about Washington’s commitment to Seoul.

This is likely to have a knock-on effect for the other major U.S. ally in East Asia — Japan, which will hold similar negotiations next year.

Song touched on this in his editorial, saying Trump was likely using the South Korean negotiations “to obtain significant concessions before presenting those as the standard for other countries” such as Japan.

While talk about going nuclear has remained a relatively fringe discussion until recent years, “a growing chorus of voices in South Korea has given up on the rosy fantasy of disarming Kim Jong Un and is instead calling for arming the ‘Land of the Morning Calm’ with destructive nuclear weapons,” Lee Byong-chul, an assistant professor at Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies, wrote late last month on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists website.

Lee cited a September 2017 Gallup poll that found 60 percent of South Koreans supported nuclear armament, while just 35 percent were opposed.

Song’s remarks Monday were not the first time he had broached the issue.

During a Sept. 30 speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, he said that “the Republic of Korea taking its own measures to create a nuclear balance on the peninsula” was a “widely touted” option.

It is not surprising that a growing number of South Korean people support the option,” he said.

Lee pointed to Song’s statement as proof of the changing mindset among even those not on the fringes of the debate.

“Such a statement is strong evidence of just how far moderate proponents of nonproliferation have shifted,” he wrote.

Still, going nuclear would be no easy task for South Korea. A plethora of obstacles stand in the way, including technical feasibility issues, political wherewithal and global pacts such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.

A nuclear-armed South Korea would also upend the regional security architecture in a number of ways, potentially giving Japan a reason to also build its own atomic weapons program.

South Korea Soon Will Develop Nuclear Weapons (Daniel 7:7)

Will South Korea Soon Develop Nuclear Weapons?

The Land of the Morning Calm has intensifying impetus to build the bomb.

By Jeremiah Jacques • October 28

On the Korean Peninsula, trends are aligning in a way that could prompt South Korea to develop nuclear weapons, according to an analysis by Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published on October 23.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is the organization that operates the famous “Doomsday Clock,” a symbolic measurement of the likelihood that mankind will begin nuclear war, with midnight representing the zero hour—global destruction. In its analysis of South Korea, the organization points out that Seoul’s calculus about whether it should develop nuclear weapons is driven by two primary factors: the likelihood that North Korea will surrender its nuclear arms voluntarily, and the reliability of the United States’ extended deterrence were a nuclear conflict to erupt on the Peninsula.

“Both,” the Bulletin wrote, “are trending in the wrong direction.”

In the case of North Korea, during the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency hope abounded that America would reach a deal to denuclearize the country’s military in exchange for lifting sanctions imposed upon it. But those talks between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un collapsed in February, and another round of negotiations failed earlier this month. Meanwhile, the North resumed tests of short-range nuclear-capable missiles in May. President Trump has responded to the tests basically with a shrug, counterbalancing them with endearing letters he receives from Kim and stressing that the shorter-range weapons cannot reach the U.S. mainland or many overseas American assets. But the missiles are fully capable of striking anywhere inside of South Korea.

In the case of the United States, South Korea is a treaty ally, which would obligate America to protect it in the event of an attack. The U.S. would also be expected to deter such attacks before they occur with the 28,000 troops, thaad systems and other weaponry it has stationed in South Korea. But since the early days of his presidency, Mr. Trump has bristled at America’s burden-sharing arrangement with the South. He has renegotiated the terms to increase the amount South Korea pays and argues Seoul should still be paying more.

The administration’s “disregard for the traditional alliance undermines the credibility of extended deterrence and has made South Koreans pessimistic about their continued dependence upon the United States,” the Bulletin wrote. “The more Trump brags about the letters from Kim Jong-un, the more he alienates an ally.”

The organization added: “If these trends continue, a nuclear South Korea is a question of ‘when,’ not ‘if.’”

Some in America’s leadership recognize the logical outcome of these trends. Last month, Stephen Biegun, the U.S.’s special representative for North Korea, asked rhetorically, “At what point will voices in South Korea or Japan and elsewhere in Asia begin to ask if they need to be considering their own nuclear capabilities?”

The Bulletin was careful to note that even if the South Korean people and leadership decided to go nuclear, they would be restrained by treaties the South has signed. “Global and bilateral nonproliferation instruments, such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” it wrote, “strictly prevent the Seoul government from going nuclear.” And South Korea would also be restrained “by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s watertight monitoring presence.”

But both North Korea and Iran also signed the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. And though the International Atomic Energy Agency routinely sounds the alarms about both, its “watertight monitoring presence” has barely slowed either nation’s drive toward developing nuclear weapons.

None of man’s various treaties, monitoring schemes and peace plans are able to secure peace. In all such ideas, there is nothing to forcibly prevent unfathomably destructive weapons from being built and used. And there is no true cause for hope.

But there is hope in the Bible.

“Only God can solve our number one problem: that of human survival,” Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes in his free booklet Nuclear Armageddon Is ‘At the Door.’

Mr. Flurry makes the Bible’s solution to this “number one problem” clear. But he shows that the Scriptures are also filled with dire warnings, showing that man’s attempts at peace will increasingly falter and that nuclear war will explode in the near future.

Matthew 24:21-22 record Jesus Christ saying: “For there will be greater anguish than at any time since the world began. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, not a single person will survive” (New Living Translation).

This could only be describing a worldwide nuclear war with enough detonations to effect a nuclear winter. And it will threaten to wipe out all human life.

Amos 5:3 shows that in certain cities, only 10 percent of human populations will survive. Jeremiah 2:15 makes plain that other cities will be entirely scorched by nuclear devastation, without a single inhabitant remaining. These are nightmarish prophecies, and trends on the Korean Peninsula are bringing them closer to fulfillment.

But the prophecies do not end with nuclear conflict ending all human life. Continuing in Matthew 24, just after Christ said that nuclear conflict at the end of this era would be so cataclysmic that it could extinguish all human life, He added an important detail: “But it will be shortened.”

Nuclear World War iii will be cut short! Before the world powers detonate enough nuclear and other weapons to obliterate humanity, Jesus Christ will interrupt the mayhem.

Mr. Flurry explains in his booklet: “The good news is God will shorten the time span and save us alive. But if He did not intervene, there wouldn’t be anyone alive on this planet. He will let it go a long way so that people learn they can’t rule themselves. Men don’t know the way of peace. God knows—and if you keep His law of love, it will bring great joy and peace into your life.”

Following that epoch of unprecedented war, Christ will usher in an era of unprecedented peace. Amos 9:14 shows that those cities that had been left with only 10 percent of their populations will be rebuilt from the ashes. The book of Jeremiah reveals that as the people rebuild, each person will come to know the true God and to keep His law. Isaiah 11:9 states: “[T]he earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” As a consequence of this global sea change, the “great joy and peace” Mr. Flurry discussed will abound worldwide. Regarding this future age of global peace, Isaiah 2:4 says: “[N]ation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” War, nuclear and otherwise, will then be a relic of a bygone era.

“We are now at the edge of this nuclear abyss!” Mr. Flurry writes. “As all these horrible signs come to pass, we know Christ is about to return.”

To understand these scriptures and how to experience the “great joy and peace” that comes from keeping God’s law today, order your free copy of Mr. Flurry’s booklet Nuclear Armageddon Is ‘At the Door.’

The South Korean Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Donald Trump meets Kim Jong-un at the Korean Demilitarized ZoneUS President Donald Trump meets Kim Jong-un at the Korean Demilitarized Zone, June 30, 2019. Credit: Public Domain.

There are two major variables that factor into South Korea’s calculus on starting a nuclear weapons program: the feasibility of North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons voluntarily, and the guarantee of America’s extended deterrence in the event of the nuclear crisis on the peninsula. Both are trending in the wrong direction.

North Korea’s intermittent nuclear threats have increasingly weighed on the minds of the broader public in South Korea, and South Koreans have started to suspect that there’s no ray of hope left for the complete denuclearization of North Korea. “Denuclearization is the dying wish of Kim Il-sung, the founder of the regime,” South Koreans have heard countless North Koreans say. But the North’s assertion that the founder’s dying wish is still operative is at best disingenuous and at worst an outright lie. In hindsight, denuclearization was dead on arrival.

Unsurprisingly, a growing chorus of voices in South Korea has given up on the rosy fantasy of disarming Kim Jong-un and is instead calling for arming the “Land of the Morning Calm” with destructive nuclear weapons. A September 2017 Gallup poll found 60 percent of South Koreans support nuclear armament, while only 35 percent are opposed. Though the public is anxiously waiting to see if North Korea will strike a deal with the Trump administration, few remain optimistic.

While many decision makers still believe that the best course is to rely on the extended deterrence provided by the United States nuclear umbrella, a growing number are quietly contemplating the alternatives. During a recent speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, former South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said that “the Republic of Korea taking its own measures to create a nuclear balance on the peninsula” was a “widely touted” option. Such a statement is strong evidence of just how far moderate proponents of nonproliferation have shifted.

The reason for this shift is that today, South Koreans cast a much more doubtful eye toward the United States security guarantee than ever. In particular, more conservatives, who are traditionally reliably US-friendly, do not hide their uneasiness about President Trump. Many were offended when, at a rally earlier this year, Trump brought up the issue of the burden-sharing arrangement for US personnel in South Korea and mocked that, “[i]t was easier to get a billion dollars from South Korea than to get $114.13 from a rent-controlled apartment in Brooklyn.”

More offensive, though, is that Trump has conspicuously tolerated North Korean missile tests that directly threaten South Korea, which hosts the third-largest contingent of overseas US troops as well as a US anti-ballistic missile defense system and is one of the world’s biggest buyers of US arms. The more Trump brags about the letters from Kim Jong-un, the more he alienates an ally. Even moderate South Koreans see Trump’s approach to the alliance as extremely petty and bigoted. In sum, his flagrant disregard for the traditional alliance undermines the credibility of extended deterrence and has made South Koreans pessimistic about their continued dependence upon the United States.

Many Americans, even in the administration, know all of this. In September, US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun rhetorically asked, “at what point will voices in South Korea or Japan and elsewhere in Asia begin to ask if they need to be considering their own nuclear capabilities?” Unfortunately, though, little is being done to assuage South Korean concerns.

If these trends continue, a nuclear South Korea is a question of “when,” not “if.”

Of course, the path to a nuclear weapon would not be free of obstacles. South Korea, as the only country in the region that has never attacked any other neighboring countries, is a staunch defender of nonproliferation norms. Many pundits in academic and security policy circles as well as high ranking officials in government still fret about the feasibility of pursuing an independent nuclear deterrent. Few security analysts think it would be possible for any president to successfully pursue a such a politically dangerous path within the span of a five-year term.

There would be international pressure too. Global and bilateral nonproliferation instruments such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, the 1992 Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and the 2015 US–Republic of Korea Nuclear Cooperation Agreement strictly prevent the Seoul government from going nuclear. In short, South Korea is restrained not only by a powerful nuclear taboo but also by the International Atomic Energy Agency’s water-tight monitoring presence.

Even if acquiring them is infeasible for now, support for nuclear weapons is more and more in fashion. South Korean policy elites understand that the country is fundamentally responsible for ensuring its own security in an anarchic world. If the United States and the world want to prevent South Korea from starting a nuclear weapons program, it is essential that Washington work toward a nuclear freeze in North Korea and reaffirm its commitment to the bilateral alliance.

Another Trumpian Moment in Iraq

Donald Trump‘s troop visit infuriates Iraqi lawmakers: ‘The American occupation of Iraq is over‘

PCN Staff Writer

By Philip Issa – Associated Press – Thursday, December 27, 2018

— President ’s surprise trip to may have quieted criticism at home that he had yet to visit troops in a combat zone, but it has infuriated Iraqi politicians who on Thursday demanded the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Arrogant” and an “a violation of national sovereignty” were but a few examples of the disapproval emanating from following ’s meeting Wednesday with U.S. servicemen and women at the al-Asad Airbase.

Trips by U.S. presidents to conflict zones are typically shrouded in secrecy and subject to strict security measures, and ’s was no exception. Few in or elsewhere knew the U.S. president was in the country until minutes before he left.

But this trip came as curbing foreign influence in Iraqi affairs has become a hot-button political issue, and ’s perceived presidential faux-pas was failing to meet with the prime minister in a break with diplomatic custom for any visiting head of state.

On the ground for only about three hours, the American president told the men and women with the U.S. military that Islamic State forces have been vanquished, and he defended his decision against all advice to withdraw U.S. troops from neighboring Syria, He declared: “We’re no longer the suckers, folks.”

The abruptness of his visit left lawmakers in smarting and drawing unfavorable comparisons to the occupation of after the 2003 invasion.

“ needs to know his limits. The American occupation of is over,” said Sabah al-Saidi, the head of one of two main blocs in ’s parliament.

, he said, had slipped into , “as though is a state of the United States.”

While didn’t meet with any officials, he spoke with Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi by phone after a “difference in points of view” over arrangements led to a face-to-face encounter between the two leaders getting scrapped, according to the prime minister’s office.

The visit could have unintended consequences for American policy, with officials from both sides of ’s political divide calling for a vote in Parliament to expel U.S. forces from the country.

The president, who kept to the U.S. air base approximately 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of , said he had no plans to withdraw the 5,200 troops in the country. He said Ain al-Asad could be used for U.S. air strikes inside Syria.

The suggestion ran counter to the current sentiment of Iraqi politics, which favors claiming sovereignty over foreign and domestic policy and staying above the fray in regional conflicts.

“ should not be a platform for the Americans to settle their accounts with either the Russians or the Iranians in the region,” said Hakim al-Zamili, a senior lawmaker in al-Saidi’s Islah bloc in Parliament.

U.S. troops are stationed in as part of the coalition against the Islamic State group. American forces withdrew in 2011 after invading in 2003 but returned in 2014 at the invitation of the Iraqi government to help fight the jihadist group. ’s visit was the first by a U.S. president since Barack Obama met with then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki at a U.S. base outside in 2009.

Still, after defeating IS militants in their last urban bastions last year, Iraqi politicians and militia leaders are speaking out against the continued presence of U.S. forces on Iraqi soil.

Supporters of the populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr won big in national elections in May, campaigning on a platform to curb U.S. and rival Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs. Al-Sadr’s lawmakers now form the core of the Islah bloc, which is headed by al-Saidi in Parliament.

The rival Binaa bloc, commanded by politicians and militia leaders close to Iran, also does not favor the U.S.

Qais Khazali, the head of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia that fought key battles against IS in northern , promised on Twitter that Parliament would vote to expel U.S. forces from , or the militias would force them out by “other means.”

Khazali was jailed by British and U.S. forces from 2007 to 2010 for managing sections of the Shia insurgency against the occupation during those years.

’s visit would be a “great moral boost to the political parties, armed factions, and others who oppose the American presence in ,” Iraqi political analyst Ziad al-Arar said.

Still, the U.S. and developed considerable military and intelligence ties in the war against IS, and they continue to pay off in operations against militants gone into hiding.

Earlier in the month, Iraqi forces called in an airstrike by U.S.-coalition forces to destroy a tunnel used by IS militants in the Atshanah mountains in north . Four militants were killed, according to the coalition.

A hasty departure of U.S. forces would jeopardize such arrangements, said Iraqi analyst Hamza Mustafa.

Relations between the U.S. and also extend beyond military ties. U.S. companies have considerable interests in ’s petrochemical industry, and American diplomats are often brokers between ’s fractious political elite.

’s Sunni politicians have been largely quiet about the presidential visit, reflecting the ties they have cultivated with the U.S. to counterbalance the might of the country’s Iran-backed and predominantly-Shiite militias.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Abdul-Mahdi accepted ’s invitation to the White House during their call, though the Prime Minister’s office has so far refused to confirm that.

• Associated Press reporters Ahmed Sami and Ali Jabar contributed.