If North Korea doubted the subtle Syrian warning from the Trump administration recent bombing, then today’s deployment of a Massive Ordinance Air Blast (MOAB) bomb in Afghanistan should clear-up any confusion. With a fleet of U.S. war ships converging near the Korean Peninsula, North Korea is in the process of detonating a nuclear test that will no doubt see a qualified U.S. response from the Trump administration. The US’s worst fears were belatedly confirmed through satellite imagery this morning, which shows North Korea in the early stages of testing a nuclear weapon. The test will probably demonstrate that the North has either successfully developed or is close to developing missiles capable of unleashing unimaginable destruction on South Korea, Japan and potentially capable of reaching the Eastern/Western seaboard of the United States. The Trump administration will first come out and denounce the North Korean missile tests as a violation of international sanctions, and a threat to US national security interests in the region. By the time the U.S. denounces the North’s tests, U.S. military preparations will already have been preemptively begun, as Trump would rather appear strong in confronting Kim, than weak in the eyes of the world. The U.S. military has been preparing for months now on a simple plan to strike North Korea and remove Kim from power. The U.S. rationale is that with Kim removed from power, the leadership void would cripple any potential blow-back or military retaliation from the generals loyal to Kim.
According to a recent USA Today article, by James S. Robbins, “During last month’s combined exercises in South Korea, U.S. forces participated in a simulated “decapitation strike” to take out North Korea’s leadership. The decapitation option is attractive because all power in the totalitarian state is focused in Kim Jong Un.” If Kim were to remain in power for longer than four to six months, the U.S. understands that South Korea more than Japan would bear the blunt of a military response from the North and this could further complicate any U.S plans of a quick victory. However, the U.S has anticipated North Korea sending missiles into South Korea and has already instituted a missile defense shield since earlier in the year known as THAAD.
Since March of this year, the U.S. has deployed its advanced sophisticated Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) ant-imissile defense system to South Korea. According to a New York Times report, dated March 6, 2017, “Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the head of the United States Pacific Command, announced the start of the deployment, saying that “continued provocative actions by North Korea, to include yesterday’s launch of multiple missiles, only confirm the prudence of our alliance decision last year to deploy Thaad to South Korea.”
As we reported in a paralleled article on this blog, the US bombing of Syrian runways was a onerous warning to North Korea that the Trump doctrine would be more military and less diplomatic hand-holding. A military conflict between North Korea and a Trump administration will not occur as a result of realized fears, but because both Trump and Kim are seen as irrational actors and any misunderstanding between either leaders could potential lead to incidental military confrontation. The key to minimizing an almost certain military conflict between the North and U.S. is China’s involvement. Chinese President Xi should note that any conflict between US and the North could potentially diminish Chinese influence in the region, as a defeated and invaded North Korea would inevitably mirror a South Korean economy eventually, and bottle-necking any Chinese ambitions of stopping an American influence in the hemisphere. China has much to lose from a US-North Korean military conflict, as is anticipated that an influx of more than 800,000 North Korean refugees would strain the Chinese economy and send it into a tail spin. The bulk of the humanitarian crises including North Korean refugees and the collapsed of Pyongyang’s economy would further burden China’s infrastructure.
China has much influence over North Korea’s actions and should exert as much pressure as possible to resolve and prevent a conflict that could potentially spiral out-of-control and engulf the entire region. Because of the many on-going investigations into the Trump administration, President Trump is in a vulnerable political state at the moment, and is operating from a position of attribution error. There’s no real reason not to believe Trump on his hardened views about Pyongyang, especially when Trump’s views about North Korea have been consistently hawkish during the campaign. As Commander-In-Chief, Trump has the means and the backing of the US military to blunt any perceived threats from Pyongyang. If Kim forces Trump in a position to defend his threat that “If the North fires another missile then every option is on the table including a military response,” then there’s a good possibility Trump more than likely would resort to using military force. Perhaps, it’s time the US, Russia, China and North Korea took a page out of the Iran-US nuclear deal negotiation process and return to the negotiation table before someone miscalculates and causes the loss of untold lives of innocent people.