A Year Of Trump Vs Kim: Rhetoric Gone Nuclear
When Donald Trump took office a little more than a year ago, it was clear from the outset that the nuclear threat from North Korea would become a key foreign policy challenge during his tenure. But his response and the immediate escalation were unexpected. Security on the Korean peninsula has been causing sleepless nights for U.S. presidents since World War II. In the past few years Pyongyangs efforts to attain improved nuclear and missile capabilities have clearly accelerated. The situation turned into a nightmare scenario for President Trump very early into his presidency when North Korea started successfully testing intercontinental ballistic missiles. But the open confrontation that erupted between Washington, DC and Pyongyang has in fact two separate strands: rhetoric and policy.
Military Exercises and Allied Show of Force
A look at the timeline of North Korean missile and nuclear tests and military exercises of the United States and its allies shows that the pressure remains high. Since Trumps inauguration, there have been almost constant military exercises in the region. Most of them are longstanding annual or semi-annual exercises that have been a persistent feature of the U.S. military presence in Asia-Pacific and a constant nuisance to the Kim-regime.
This Time Its Different
Where Is Us Diplomacy In India
As CCN.com reported earlier this week, Trumps voice has been suspiciously absent as tensions flare between India and Pakistan. Two nuclear states with immense military firepower at their disposal.
India launched airstrikes into Pakistan territory on Monday 21st February, breaching the de facto border for the first time in 40 years. The aggression came after Pakistan militants killed 40 Indians in a suicide attack.
Typically, the US has used its diplomatic leverage to act as a peacemaker in the region. Former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice famously pulled India and Pakistan back from the brink of war in 2008. She visited India to urge caution after the Mumbai attacks.
Neither Trump nor his secretary of state Mike Pompeo has shown much tact or diplomacy in addressing the tensions this time around.
Since elected, Trump has come down hard on Pakistan, slashing US military aid. Meanwhile, he has heaped praise on India and strengthened military deals. If war breaks out between the two nuclear nations, its clear where Trumps allegiance lies.
Meanwhile, China is lining up behind Pakistan, supplying the nation with nuclear technology and arms. Theres an epic power battle escalating behind the scenes and Trump appears clueless.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not represent those of, nor should they be attributed to, CCN.com.
The Fire And Fury Era
The story begins not with Barack Obama huddling in the Oval Office with President-elect Trump in 2016 and stating that he was on the verge of unleashing World War III on North Korea, as Trump likes to tell it, but rather with the 44th president soberly informing his successor that Trumps principal national-security challenge would be North Koreas rapidly advancing nuclear program.
What Obama told Trump was, You have to be attuned to the risk of them being able to put a warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States, Ben Rhodes, Obamas former deputy national security adviser, told me. The message seemed to register with Trump, which was notable because the commander in chief in waiting otherwise spent much of the meeting boasting about the size of his crowds.
Trump, in fact, took Obamas warning seriously. In the first months of the new administration, officials hurtled in a direction that the Obama White House had been heading in more gingerly, dubbing their policy maximum pressure and staking out a lofty goal: convincing Kim that he would be safer without his nuclear arsenal than with it.
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Sanctions On North Korea Trade With China
Since North Koreas first nuclear test in 2006, the UN Security Council had passed a number of resolutions that imposed various sanctions on the DPRK, including restrictions on economic activity. Nevertheless, North Koreas gross domestic product grew by an estimated 3.9 percent in 2016, to about $28.5 billion, the fastest pace in 17 years the progress was largely attributed to continued trade with China, which accounted for more than 90% of North Koreas international trade.
In late February 2017, following North Koreas February 12 test of the Pukkuksong-2 medium-range ballistic missile, China, which regards its trade with North Korea and the putative missile threat to the U.S. as separate issues, said it would comply with UN Resolution 2321 and halt all coal imports from North Korea. The halt notwithstanding, in April 2017, China said that its trade with North Korean had expanded. In July 2017, Chinas trade with North Korea, while the ban on North Korean coal was said to have slowed imports from the DPRK, was worth $456 million, up from $426 million in July 2016, the year-to-date trade being up 10.2 percent at $3.01 billion.
China has been opposed to secondary sanctions that may be imposed on Chinese firms that do business with North Korea.
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Kims Address Came Amid Growing Tension
Kim said Monday in his annual New Years Day address that The entire mainland of the US is within the range of our nuclear weapons and the nuclear button is always on the desk of my office. They should accurately be aware that this is not a threat but a reality.
In the address, Kim also expressed a desire for a peaceful resolution with South Korea, a break from the aggressive language he used to threaten the US.
Trump, as part of his Tuesday morning tweetstorm, said the potentially warm gesture to South Korea from Kim is perhaps good news, perhaps not, and referred to sanctions and other pressures on North Korea.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders said at the White House news briefing that the US approach to North Korea had not changed, that the US continues to regard North Korea as a global threat and seeks an international solution while keeping all of our options on the table.
Trump has repeatedly made statements about North Korea via Twitter. The President said it was a waste of time for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to negotiate with North Korea referring to Kim in the tweet as Little Rocket Man shortly after the US diplomat said he hoped to de-escalate the standoff through talks. After a North Korean statement insulted Trump by calling him a dotard, the US President tweeted that he would NEVER call the North Korean leader short and fat, while also saying that maybe someday he would be Kims friend.
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The Implications Of A North Korean Open
A North Korean atmospheric nuclear test could well spark a rolling summer of 1914-style crisis.
As Donald Trumps threats against North Korea have accelerated this year, the North has responded with its characteristically over-the-top rhetoric. Recently, it threatened to fire nuclear weapons into the sea around the US territory of Guam, leading to this crisis most memorable public takeaway: the government of that island encouraged care in the use of conditioner post-strike, lest radioactive debris cleave to ones hair.
Last month, the North made another outlandish threat. This time it would test a nuclear device in the north Pacific. South Korean intelligence is hinting at yet another imminent North Korean nuclear test. Could this the first open-air nuclear test in decades? And would this serve as a casus belli for the administration of US President Donald Trump? I have suggested previously that Trump may be trying to bait North Korean leader Kim Jong Un into a provocation outrageous enough to justify the use of force. It certainly feels that way when Trump ad-libs unnecessarily provocative language like fire and fury or totally destroy North Korea. Trump himself seems decidedly against diplomacy with Pyongyang.
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South Korea Initially Receptive To Possible Dialogue
Recent years have seen North Korea display increasing strength in its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development, while Kim makes provocative statements threatening to attack his enemies. In November, North Korea claimed it had the capability to attack any part of the US mainland.
The UN Security Council has voted to ratchet up sanctions in response to the continued development of North Koreas nuclear program. Last month, the US conducted another round of military exercises with South Korea, which Kim called for South Korea to end in his New Years statement.
But Kims call for talks between the two countries at the beginning of the year struck many observers as noteworthy, and South Korean leadership has been receptive to Kims potential openness to dialogue. The spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in said South Korea also hoped for a resolution between the two countries.
Moon said he would look to restore communication between the South and the isolated North, and that he welcomed North Korea participating in the Winter Olympic Games, which South Korea is hosting next month.
CNNs Jeff Zeleny, Alanne Orjoux and Steve George contributed to this article.
An Old Strategy On Weak Foundations
Though Washingtons enduring North Korea strategy has not been contained in a document passed down through administrations, it has remained remarkably consistent from Clinton through Trump. It could be summarized as: Negotiate an end to North Koreas nuclear weapons program through diplomatic and economic leverage, while maintaining regional stability and minimizing risk through multilateral diplomacy, military restraint, and extended deterrence guarantees to U.S. allies. Aside from some vague threats of military force, this strategy primarily relied on economic pressure and incentives as the leverage to achieve denuclearization, though diplomatically isolating or recognizing Pyongyang was also considered essential leverage.
Nevertheless, Washington remained trapped by these untenable assumptions, in part because of what discarding them would mean for larger priorities like regional stability, global non-proliferation, and relations with China. If Washington acknowledged that it did not have sufficient leverage to get the Kim regime to negotiate away its nuclear program, it could be seen as accepting North Korea as a nuclear-armed power or presenting military conflict as the only recourse. Either possibility was seen as politically unpalatable and unacceptably risky, particularly while North Koreas nuclear progress remained limited and hopes for denuclearization diplomacy continued.
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What Does North Korea Want
As for North Korea’s goals, analysts said the country is probably willing to remove some capabilities it no longer needs and may agree not to increase the size of its arsenal. But Kim won’t give up his nuclear weapons, they said.
Victor Cha, Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, predicted during a discussion in Washington last week that Kim’s approach will be to “actually not really giving up anything.” At the same time, he’ll have “clear demands for the United States to give up things very much in the present” possibly including military exercises, troop deployments and sanctions.
North Korea currently faces United Nations sanctions and separate sanctions from the United States. The UN blocks some imports and exports and has frozen the assets of individuals connected with Pyongyang’s nuclear program. The United States restricts the North Korean economy further and targets more individuals.
CNBC’s Huileng Tan contributed to this report.
The Main Three Weapons North Korea Displayed And Their Dangers Explained
The October 10 parade commemorated the 75th year of the Workers Party of Korea, which has outlasted the Soviet Unions 74 years as a nation. During recent iterations, this annual celebration has provided Kim the chance to showcase not only his hold on power, as his father and grandfather did before him, but also the new weapons he has to safeguard that power.
The 2020 event was no different, save for it confusingly taking place at night instead of during the day . But this years display was one of the most troubling in years because of what North Koreas military rolled through the streets of Pyongyang.
Lets take each in turn.
A new intercontinental ballistic missile
In December 2019, Kim promised his nation a new strategic weapon which experts interpreted as code for a bigger, more capable missile to deliver a nuclear weapon to targets nearby, or even as far away as the United States.
He finally unveiled the promised weapon this past weekend, and, well, just look at it.
High resolution of the new North Korean ICBM.
Experts say the four showcased missiles are the biggest ever seen in North Korea. But more than that, they are the largest road-mobile missiles with their own truck-based launchers in the entire world. This means that, in case of a war, North Koreas military could roll these missiles out of underground bunkers, place them somewhere on land, and shoot them at the United States.
Improved shorter-range missiles that threaten South Korea
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Trump Fails To Rein In Nuclear Nations: North Korea Summit Breaks Down While India
The US-North Korea nuclear summit ended with no agreement today while the threat of nuclear war looms large between India and Pakistan. | Source: AP Photo/Brian Branch-Price
Americas presence as a global superpower is on thin ice under President Donald Trump.
The president is struggling to reign in three of the biggest nuclear military nations, North Korea, India, and Pakistan. In the past, the US has played a crucial diplomatic role in easing nuclear tensions around the world. Not any more.
Yesterday, the president failed to reach a deal with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, with the much-hyped summit ending early. Meanwhile, his inaction in the India-Pakistan crossfire has left two nuclear powerhouses on the brink of war.
With Trump way out of his depth at the diplomacy table, theres a huge power vacuum growing on the global stage.