On Friday, after a North Korean official said that Kim was ready to meet Trump “at any time,” Donald Trump, Jr., linked to an Axios story about this statement and crowed, “The Art of The Deal baby!!!”—as if Trump’s decision to cancel the summit had elicited important new concessions from the North Koreans. But that wasn’t the case.
.. Of course, Kim is willing to meet anytime. It was he who requested the summit in the first place.
To sit down one on one with an American President has for decades been a goal of North Korea’s leaders.
.. At the very least, some detailed preparatory work would make it easier to manage expectations in both Washington and Pyongyang.
.. The evidence suggests Trump acted as he did because he didn’t like the tone of North Korea’s statements, particularly those directed at John Bolton, the national-security adviser, and Mike Pence, the Vice-President, after they both suggested that Libya’s disarmament under Muammar Qaddafi would be a good model for the North Koreans to follow.
.. This language suggests the North Koreans have learned the lesson that Pence and many other people around Trump learned a long time ago: the most reliable way to get him to do something you want is to praise him expansively and publicly.
.. the idea that Trump is some sort of master negotiator, or ace business tactician, is a fallacy propagated by himself. Trump’s actual record in doing business deals is one of overpaying, struggling to make them work, and shuffling some of his companies in and out of bankruptcy.
.. The only art he has perfected is promoting himself as a great dealmaker on the basis of such a checkered past.
.. Trump has displayed virtually no regard for the consequences of his actions on American allies, including South Korea and Japan.
.. without giving any advance notice to South Korea, which had worked for months to set up the summit, was shocking even by his standards.
.. To many people who live in Korea or in nearby countries, it seemed like an American President was behaving erratically on a matter of existential importance.
.. Trump looks impetuous and unreliable.”
.. the Trump Administration is demanding that Kim’s regime agree to scrap its entire nuclear arsenal—which it spent thirty years developing—rapidly and unilaterally.
The North Koreans, in talking about “denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula,” appear to be envisaging a much more gradual process that would involve reciprocal measures on the U.S. side.
.. China, which is also a key player, has proposed an initial “freeze for freeze” deal, in which North Korea freezes its nuclear program and the United States suspends its military exercises with South Korea.
The pathways that have been examined fall into four main categories:
- doing nothing,
- hitting Kim Jong Un’s regime with tougher sanctions,
- pushing for talks, and
- military confrontation.
- In a launch from North Korea, a nuclear-tipped missile could reach San Francisco in half an hour.
- A nuclear attack on Seoul, South Korea’s capital of 10 million people, could start and finish in three minutes.
.. Luring the North Koreans to the negotiating table is perhaps the most popular pathway among many experts, who advocate a “freeze-for-freeze” option, in which the United States might promise to restrict military exercises in the region or eschew new sanctions against Kim’s regime, in exchange for North Korea agreeing to halt expansion and testing of its nuclear capabilities.
Former defense secretary Robert M. Gates, for example, has suggested promising not to seek regime change in North Korea in exchange for Kim committing to a cap on his nuclear program.
the Trump administration rejects the idea of freeze-for-freeze, calling it a false moral equivalency.
.. A military confrontation could start with a U.S. effort to force regime change, either by taking out the Kim regime or by fomenting a rebellion among elites in the isolated dictatorship.
“But it’s hard to imagine that scenario ending with anything other than the North Koreans deciding to light up Seoul,”
.. In a conventional war, heavy casualties would likely result as North Korean troops poured into the South, using tunnels the North is reported to have built under the demilitarized zone between the countries. In addition, North Korea is believed to have a stockpile of several thousand tons of chemical weapons
.. In war games played out at Washington policy institutes, even minor confrontations have led to a nuclear exchange.
.. North Korea might attempt to spread fear through an act of terrorism, said Patrick Cronin, an Asia-Pacific security expert at the Center for a New American Security. “A few grenades in downtown Seoul will absolutely close down the city out of fear,” he said.
.. North Korea has “proven adept over the years at using force in pretty calibrated ways to achieve political objectives,” said Thomas Mahnken, president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, which does war-game planning. He said the North takes advantage of the relative unwillingness of the United States and South Korea to risk war.
August is also when the United States and South Korea conduct major joint military exercises, which always set Pyongyang on edge. In August 2015, tensions escalated into cross-border artillery exchanges after two South Korean soldiers were wounded by land mines laid by North Korea. This juxtaposition of tough sanctions and military exercises has predictably heightened North Korea’s threats.
.. We have long lived with successive Kims’ belligerent and colorful rhetoric — as ambassador to the United Nations in the Obama administration, I came to expect it whenever we passed resolutions. What is unprecedented and especially dangerous this time is the reaction of President Trump. Unscripted, the president said on Tuesday that if North Korea makes new threats to the United States, “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” These words risk tipping the Korean Peninsula into war, if the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, believes them and acts precipitously.
Either Mr. Trump is issuing an empty threat of nuclear war, which will further erode American credibility and deterrence, or he actually intends war next time Mr. Kim behaves provocatively. The first scenario is folly, but a United States decision to start a pre-emptive war on the Korean Peninsula, in the absence of an imminent threat, would be lunacy.
.. History shows that we can, if we must, tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea — the same way we tolerated the far greater threat of thousands of Soviet nuclear weapons during the Cold War.
.. First, though we can never legitimize North Korea as a nuclear power, we know it is highly unlikely to relinquish its sizable arsenal because Mr. Kim deems the weapons essential to his regime’s survival.
.. By most assessments, Mr. Kim is vicious and impetuous, but not irrational.
.. John Kelly, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, must assert control over the White House, including his boss, and curb the Trump surrogates whipping up Cuban missile crisis fears.
.. Fourth, we must continue to raise the costs to North Korea of maintaining its nuclear programs. Ratcheting up sanctions, obtaining unfettered United Nations authority to interdict suspect cargo going in or out of the North, increasing Pyongyang’s political isolation and seeding information into the North that can increase regime fragility are all important elements of a pressure campaign.
In fact, America’s navy should co-operate more with China’s, too
RARELY in times of peace has a country acquired naval power at such a rate as China has in recent years. Three decades ago its warships were clapped out, capable of operating only close to shore. Now its shipyards are churning out state-of-the-art combat vessels at a furious pace. Some experts believe it could have as many warships as America within a few years. China’s navy is also developing global range: this week three of its ships have been staging war games in the Baltic Sea with the Russian navy, the first joint exercises by the two countries in those waters. The intended message to the West is clear. China and Russia, united in their resentment of American power, are thumbing their noses at NATO on its doorstep.
.. This week’s exercises with Russia in the Baltic, meanwhile, suggest not only a shared enmity towards the West but also mutual admiration of each other’s thuggish political systems. President Xi Jinping has turned a blind eye to Russia’s land-grab in Ukraine, and President Vladimir Putin to China’s in the South China Sea... Yet there is far less to the Russia-China relationship than meets the eye (see article). Russian officials worry about China’s growing economic and military might almost as much as their American counterparts do. Russia sells China a lot of weapons, but sells similar stuff to India, China’s rival. True, Mr Xi ignores the West’s sanctions on Russia—but that is mainly because he wants a stable relationship with a huge neighbour which China has come close to fighting in living memory... As for China’s naval muscle-flexing in the Baltic, that is a development that should, in several respects, be welcomed rather than feared. If China wants to show that its warships can operate in distant seas, there is nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it is entirely right that China, as a global economic power, should play a larger part in providing the maritime security on which global trade depends. It is already taking part in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden—something for which its base in Djibouti will play a useful supporting role.
Deploying its navy far beyond its own waters might also help China understand that America, too, has good reasons for doing so. China frequently huffs about American warships in the western Pacific, refusing to accept one of the Pentagon’s main reasons for deploying there: that America has a vital stake in the security of Asian trade.
.. the biennial multi-country RIMPAC manoeuvres, to be held off Hawaii next year. In May the Pentagon invited China to join in, for what would be the third time. Some American politicians grumble about the involvement of a navy so unfriendly to the West. But they are wrong to do so. Such exercises are an important way to prevent confrontation triggered by misunderstanding. And China’s inclusion would help ensure that its increasing naval assertiveness bolsters global security, rather than threatens it.