The phrase “between a rock and a hard place” has many possible applications, but none may be more fitting than the quandary the U.S. is finding itself in on the Korean peninsula with a pariah state ruled by increasingly desperate despot Kim Jong Un.
For years, the North Korean government has proceeded unfettered down the path of nuclear weapons development. So far, the country has had five full-scale nuclear bomb tests as well as dozens of medium-range missile launches in its quest to perfect an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that can reach the shores of the distant United States.
For the U.S., this is a “red line” that the Hermit Kingdom can’t be allowed to cross because it’s quite clear that the rogue nation’s leadership is power-mad, unstable and highly unpredictable.
While it’s almost universally acknowledged that North Korea’s use of force in any significant way would be tantamount to the country’s suicide, defectors from Kim Jong Un’s government say that condition may not stop the nation from implementing the unimaginable. Even if the country did not launch an attack, every day it has nuclear weapons is a day it could sell them to other rogue states such as Iran, Sudan or stateless actors such as ISIS.
In preparation for keeping “all options on the table” — a phrase that both President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have used multiple times — the U.S. has brought a naval strike group led by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson into the region. The group will soon be joined by the USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz aircraft carriers in the next several weeks.
A failed North Korean missile launch on April 16 brought the crisis into clear focus after a military parade in the nation’s capital of Pyongyang the previous day showed off what appeared to be new types of missiles that analysts say are ICBMs.
Whether the failed missile launch on April 16 was caused by a bad design, an accident or intentional sabotage is unknown. It’s also not been reported by South Korean defense forces, the United States or any other source what type of missile was fired.
But what is clear is that in the 69-year history of North Korea, there’s never been a point in time when the country has “backed down” from the aggressive stance of an enemy. North Korea has threatened numerous times to reduce American cities (including, most recently, New York) “to ashes” and has used particularly descriptive language to explain to what extent its enemies can expect to be annihilated.
While many people assume that North Korean dictator Kim is the true leader of his nation, he’s likely not the one calling the shots in most cases; he’s much too young (aged just 32 or 33) and inexperienced to be giving orders, despite the fact that he’s seen in many video clips and broadcasts from the nation seeming to do just that.
But the truth is that Kim is more or less a figurehead, and the actual leaders of the country are older and behind the scenes. It’s a fact that the younger Kim was only seen in the company of previous North Korean leader Kim Jong Il sporadically for a year before the elder Kim passed away; prior to this, Kim Jong Un was supposedly educated in Swiss boarding schools under pseudonyms.
But one year would have been much too short a time for the elder Kim to instruct his son in how to run a country and in the subtleties of international relations. The U.S. doesn’t even have verifiable proof that Kim Jong Un is related to Kim Jong Il by blood at all.
Because of this, it makes it even harder for the United States to plan an attack, as U.S. leadership can’t know for certain exactly who’s in charge of the country and where they are at all times.
In the face of these facts, it’s clear that the U.S. has to contain and eliminate the North Korean threat as soon as possible. During the Barack Obama presidency, a lackadaisical attitude on behalf of the president allowed the North Koreans to proceed dangerously far down the road of atomic weapons development (which was begun in earnest after U.S. President Bill Clinton deigned to give the country two nuclear reactors in 1994).
Sitting around and ignoring North Korea, as Obama did for eight years, is no longer an option. The clock is ticking, and President Trump will need to take decisive action soon. It’s almost assured that such action cannot take the form of diplomacy.
In the past, diplomatic overtures by the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations ended in failure and only strengthened the North Koreans’ hand, as they realized they could play games, stall for time and ultimately renege on any agreements.
The U.S. has tried applying sanctions to North Korea’s relatively small international and financial trade, and China — North Korea’s main trading partner — recently refused to buy the rogue nation’s coal exports. But it’s unclear that these have or can have any significant effect on the small isolated nation, and in the past, North Korea’s leaders have shown an alarming willingness to let their rural citizens starve while military weapon development hastily proceeded.
For now, it must be assumed that North Korea is on an unstoppable path to an ICBM topped by a nuclear warhead that the country could soon launch, either from its own territory, or possibly from a submarine.
Therefore, the U.S. will need to mount a military offensive to “decapitate” the North Korean leadership and secure all nuclear sites within the country’s borders in roughly a 24-hour timeframe. The problem is that the North Koreans are prepared for just such an assault and have both conventional weapons and nuclear weapons trained on South Korea, including its highly populated capital of Seoul, which lies just 35 miles south of the North Korean border.
For President Trump, an assault on North Korea would have to be preceded by a South Korean evacuation from any and all populated areas, including Seoul. Japan, too, must likely engage in some evacuations, as North Korean missiles are now capable of reaching that country.
The idea for the U.S. would be to effect a speedy “one-two” punch; evacuate hotspots like Seoul and Tokyo, then quickly launch an all-out strike on the North Korean leadership. Speed would be of the utmost importance; all events would have to occur in 48 to 72 hours.
The risk of waiting too long would mean that North Korea could decide to strike before its only advantage disappears — the ability to inflict mass casualties, mostly in South Korea, but potentially also in Japan.
Although the North Korean government has many spies in South Korea (and likely Japan as well), it might not be able to react fast enough if all actions were coordinated and executed rapidly. Perhaps if the American government distracted the North Korean leadership with peace talks or other unexpected measures of diplomacy, this could assist in U.S. efforts.
Whether these are realistic scenarios is not honestly debatable; Japan has already announced that it’s contemplating the evacuation of 57,000 of its citizens from South Korea. The state of Hawaii has ordered civil defense drills in case North Korean weapons are targeting it.
This plan may be the best and only opportunity to force North Korea to back down from its intensely aggressive posture. Doing nothing is no longer really an option for the United States.
~ Conservative Zone