Trump’s challenge: N. Korea

Source: Israel Hayom | Trump’s challenge: N. Korea

Prof. Abraham Ben-Tzi

During the Cold War era, particularly during severe crises, the United States and the Soviet Union still managed to conduct the tense and charged conflicts between them in a fairly controlled and balanced manner. They did this by making an effort to establish new and reliable communication channels and patterns between them, even before the establishment of the Moscow-Washington hotline, also known as the “red telephone,” in 1963.

These efforts enabled Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and U.S. President John F. Kennedy, in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, to draw the red lines that, if crossed, would bring the entire international community to the brink. This demarcation helped neutralize the possibility that a distorted perception or misunderstanding would set things off.

But unlike the clear lines drawn in a world with two superpowers, the current crisis with North Korea faces the world’s only superpower with a new, unchartered challenge. The challenge stems from the fact that the motivation behind North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s decision to test-fire intercontinental ballistic missiles, in flagrant disregard of clear American warnings, remains unclear. Is this nothing more than saber-rattling — Kim’s rational effort to terrorize the international arena by projecting an image of an irrational leader — or is it a reflection of delusions of grandeur and a dangerous predilection for unexpected moves?

It seems that the rules that enabled the international community to survive the Cold War era, anchored in the shared desire of the White House and the Kremlin to avoid mutual destruction, are now invalid, faced with the brazen challenge by the tyrant of North Korea. Moreover, the Trump administration’s working assumption — that the key to restraining North Korea is China — has not yet proved itself. This is not only because China is categorically opposed to a policy of brinkmanship or conducting economic warfare against North Korea, but also because it is unclear if it really has the ability to force Kim (despite his great dependence on trade with China) onto a less provocative path.

And so Kim continues to be defiant. The latest example could be heard in his threatening remarks last weekend: In response to a recent aerial show of power by the U.S. and its allies South Korea and Japan, which held war games not far from the North Korean border, the leader warned against “playing with fire,” which would increase the chances of a nuclear war. Indeed, in light of the difficulty in enlisting Chinese (and Russian) support for expanded sanctions against North Korea, the range of non-violent options available to U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be shrinking.

The problem is that even the most surgical strike against North Korea’s nuclear facilities is likely to have the opposite of the desired effect, exacerbating an already tense situation on the Korean peninsula even further. North Korea has significant conventional military power, and it could easily shed South Korean blood within range of its murderous artillery and missile barrages in immediate response to any military move by the U.S.

In summary, the current crisis proves the inherent difficulty in deterring rivals who behave like pyromaniacs at a gas station displaying an insatiable urge to light a fire, regardless of the consequences. In recent days, a new, complex challenge has cropped up right before the eyes of the American administration and the question is how willing Trump will be to incorporate aspects of former President Bill Clinton’s plan from 20 years ago into his own efforts to curb these nuclear aspirations.

But the Clinton policy, based on the carrot and stick method — humanitarian aid and sanctions — ultimately failed in the face of North Korea’s strategy of deception. At this time, it would be unwise to rule out a resumption of aggressive diplomacy that also incorporates incentives and rewards. After all, even a policy of economic strangulation may not topple the merciless North Korean tyrant, because his people, hungry and helpless, don’t factor into his considerations in any way.

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18 Comments on “Trump’s challenge: N. Korea”

  1. John Prophet Says:

    Time To Grow Up.

    The world is inhabited by us,
    nearly every nook.
    We are afraid of each other.
    We have weapons,
    massive amount of weapons,
    to protect ourselves
    from ourselves.
    What are we afraid of?

    We breath the same air,
    we see the same moon.
    We all love our children,
    we want to live a happy life.
    Then why all the weapons?
    We are all the same really,
    just one family of man.

    This one’s afraid of that one
    and that one’s afraid of this one.

    The trillions
    spent on weapons
    could feed the hungry,
    home the homeless,
    take care of the sick.

    Our fear of each other
    is a throwback
    to survival
    in more difficult
    past times.

    Those times are gone.
    It’s time to grow up.

    • John Prophet Says:

      $1,570,000,000,000: how much the world spent on arms this year 2016.


      • joopklepzeiker Says:

        Nearly 50% by thye USA alone !

        Once again this year, the US retained its long-held place as the world’s biggest spender on defence, with an outlay of $622bn, up 1pc, more than three times second-placed China, at $191.8bn, and a 6pc increase on the previous year.

    • joopklepzeiker Says:

      It’s time to grow up for humanity !

      100% JP .

      • John Prophet Says:

        No argument…

        • joopklepzeiker Says:

          O well your bridges crumbling down, your dams are breaking your infra structure is a mess !
          When was the last BIG infrastructure project in the USA ?

          But playing big bully brother and forcing the will of the USA on the world instead of making the USA really great how condescending is that ?
          I,am just holding up a mirror , perhaps you do not like what you see, but that is not made by me , nothing to do with me i,am just the mirror holder wherein you see the truth made by you guys .

          • Come on Joop. Give us a break. I just got back from a vacation in Panama City and the highways were pristine, the bridges were new, and the countryside was clean. Since I last went to the Florida coast, there are now new turnpikes to the coast and new construction everywhere. Contrary to your belief and misguided readings, the USA is not falling apart. Sure, repairs are needed the infrastructure in different locations, but falling apart? Not hardly.

          • joopklepzeiker Says:

            Of coarse not, but what about dams and bridges ?
            Did you have ever seen a European highway ?
            Pristine gets a complete other meaning !

            USA highways are dirt roads compared .
            CLEAN , ABSOLUTE a shining example for the whole world !

          • We don’t have dams along the coast. We have levee protection districts and pumping stations. I know personally of improvements as we speak to pumping stations in my parish that amount to $3mil in local funds. As for bridges, there are long spans over bays and lakes, i.e. Lake Ponchartrain bridge which is 26 miles long and in great shape and well maintained. There are countless others but I have no issue with any I’m familiar with and crossed lately.

          • joopklepzeiker Says:


            In February 2017, Oroville Dam’s main and emergency spillways were significantly damaged, prompting the evacuation of more than 180,000 people living downstream along the Feather River and the relocation of a fish hatchery.

            The American Infrastructure Report Card from ASCE provides a look at the bridge, water, transportation and more infrastructure problems of the US.


  2. “What is increasingly clear is China enabling and utilizing North Korea as a proxy foil against President Trump’s intent renegotiate bilateral trade deals. However, big panda knows -albeit with an uncertainty to the severity- they are walking a tenuous tightrope given the intensity of President Trump to resolve those two issues simultaneously.

    The media might be ignoring where this predictable path is leading for reason, but there is no doubt the U.S. is prepared to deliver substantive and actual economic consequences toward China for their unwillingness to stop Kim Jung-Un from advancing toward ever more threatening conflict.”

    Quotes from article on The Conservative Treehouse site.


    “There is no upper limit to the level of economic pain Team U.S.A. (America First) is willing to inflict upon China. There is no ending perimeter of action too far for President Trump to travel. Trump will battle his adversary far beyond traditional horizons and will follow them in retreat if that’s what it takes to ensure the safety of the our economic nation.”

    IMHO, we must exhaust all means of coercion before going to war. I say, give it one more chance before marching off to war. Of course, the other choice is to do nothing at all much like with Iran. Unfortunately, the outcome of this choice will not manifest itself for years and the outcome is totally uncertain.

    • joopklepzeiker Says:

      Do nothing is done the last 60 years or so .

      It would be a blessing if the doughnut with feet goes up to the big doughnut baker in the sky , but this must be done by his own people !

      MM, economical war with China , that will hurt the USA more than china , in China 80% of the population are already living on a low level , would be a nice experiment to see what will happens with the Trump administration as 80% of the USA population has to go back to a lower level .

      There is only a political diplomatic solution possible and we need China for that, and we are frustrating China dearly so for now that is also not a possibility.

      WHAT now , the old medicine , let go to war , but lets do it modern with trowing nukes around .

      And to help you remember i,am living on the edge of the North Hadley cell , you know location location !
      with my own elec power and water , now running the air co on the power of the sun , green and comfortable and above all sustainable a way outside the EMP radius . !

  3. Joop and JP, check this one out. It’s kind of hard to disagree with this argument, but it’s worth posting:

    • joopklepzeiker Says:

      Typical loudmouthed USA hypocrisy and geo politics Chicago style !

      Diego Garcia is an atoll just south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean, and the largest of 60 small islands comprising the Chagos Archipelago. It was settled by the French in the 1790s and was transferred to British rule after the Napoleonic Wars. It was one of the “Dependencies” of the British Colony of Mauritius until it was detached for inclusion in the newly created British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) in 1965. Between 1968 and 1973, the population was forcibly removed by the United Kingdom and United States (in order to establish an American base) through intimidation of locals and denying the return of any who left the island. Many were deported to Mauritius and Seychelles, following which the United States built a large naval and military base on Diego Garcia, which has been in continuous operation ever since. As of March 2015, Diego Garcia is the only inhabited island of the BIOT; the population is composed of military personnel and supporting contractors.

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