How Trump’s tweets and three fleets can help move the North Korea needle

How Trump’s tweets and three fleets can help move the North Korea needle, Washington ExaminerTom Rogan, October 25, 2017

OPINION

The Nimitz transit route will translated in Beijing as: “if you don’t help us with North Korea, we are going to escalate against your interests.”

President Trump’s public skepticism about diplomacy lends threat credibility to this CSG posture. Under Trump’s authority, the international community cannot assume these CSGs are just for show. At the strategic level, Trump’s potential to move the diplomatic needle rests in external perceptions that he will use military force absent that movement. Again, this is especially important in Beijing, which is reflexively predisposed against making concessions to the United States.

I recognize that sending three CSGs into potential conflict zones isn’t without risk. Still, considering that we only have a few months to reach a diplomatic agreement with North Korea, a show of muscle with these deployments is the right call.

Put simply, Trump must roll the dice, and CSGs roll well.

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In a rare occurrence, three U.S. Navy carrier strike groups (CSGs) are now in the Indian Ocean or western Pacific Ocean. While the Navy claims these deployments were pre-planned, its heavy publicity of this news suggests it was told to make a show of its presence.

As such, I suspect the Trump administration is attempting to raise Chinese and North Korean concerns that the U.S. is preparing to use force against the latter.

In specific terms, Trump wants China to put additional economic pressure on North Korea. While President Xi of China has made some limited efforts in this regard, he could do much more to restrict the financial intermediaries that deliver Kim Jong Un his foreign capital. And whether coincidental or not, these three arrivals align well with the news that diplomats are struggling to make headway. The timing and contrast between diplomats and carriers allows the U.S. to present a binary choice between the carrot of diplomacy and the stick of military power.

Still, the pressure on China is also extended by basic geography. After all, unless it takes a big detour, the Nimitz CSG will navigate past China’s artificial islands in the East and South China Seas in order to get to the Korean Peninsula. We know this because the Navy’s press release makes clear the Nimitz is sailing from the Middle East and asserts that the CSG “will be ready to support operations throughout the [Western Pacific area of operations].” Seeing as North Korea is the primary threat contingency in that area, we should assume the Nimitz will head towards the peninsula.

The Nimitz transit route will translated in Beijing as: “if you don’t help us with North Korea, we are going to escalate against your interests.”

Yet Trump himself is also crucial here.

That’s because President Trump’s public skepticism about diplomacy lends threat credibility to this CSG posture. Under Trump’s authority, the international community cannot assume these CSGs are just for show. At the strategic level, Trump’s potential to move the diplomatic needle rests in external perceptions that he will use military force absent that movement. Again, this is especially important in Beijing, which is reflexively predisposed against making concessions to the United States.

Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that sending three CSGs into potential conflict zones isn’t without risk. Still, considering that we only have a few months to reach a diplomatic agreement with North Korea, a show of muscle with these deployments is the right call.

Put simply, Trump must roll the dice, and CSGs roll well.

Explore posts in the same categories: China and North Korea, North Korea - military options, North Korean missiles, North Korean nukes, South China Sea, U.S. Navy, Western Pacific Ocean

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