Monday, June 26, 2017 at 8:03 AM

North Korean Nukes like Quicksilver for China and US

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

China and the United States agreed that efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula should be ‘complete, verifiable and irreversible’, Chinese state media said on Saturday, reporting the results of high level talks in Washington this week.

‘Both sides reaffirm that they will strive for the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,’ a consensus document released by the official Xinhua news agency said.

(Reuters, June 24, 2017)

Today China and the US are pronouncing seemingly consequential efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. But just years ago they were making similar pronouncements to prevent nuclearization there in the first place.

Frankly, it’s arguable that the more China and the US vow to stop North Korea’s nuclear program, the more North Korea develops it. Nothing demonstrates this ironic symmetry quite like them agreeing to redouble efforts to denuclearize the Peninsula just days after President Trump himself conceded this:

@realDonaldTrump

While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!

11:38 AM – 20 Jun 2017

After their first meeting in April, Trump continually touted the “good chemistry” he and Chinese President Xi Jinping established. He implied that this would lead to China doing his bidding like it has never done for any other president in US history. Well, so much for that!

In fact, Trump would be hard-pressed to show exactly how “China tried.” After all, it seems Xi merely paid lip service to those purported efforts. Because he did nothing to tighten the noose of economic sanctions, which China has been holding very loosely around North Korea’s neck for over sixty years.

Incidentally, this makes Xi just the latest world leader to play Trump for a fool by simply stroking his infantile ego. Unfortunately, Trump is so self-obsessed and delusional, he regards his humiliations as praises, his hypocrisies as virtues.

For example, only this latter oxymoronic trait explains why this hypocrite was all over TV today blaming Obama for doing nothing to stop Russia’s interference in last year’s presidential election.

After all, to this day, Trump refuses even to acknowledge the full extent of that interference. This, notwithstanding the open and notorious way he encouraged Russia to keep hacking and leaking damaging information on Hillary and her campaign operatives.

Whereas, far from doing nothing, Obama confronted Putin, commissioned a comprehensive intelligence report, and imposed diplomatic and economic sanctions. Not to mention the extraordinary report in Friday’s edition of the Washington Post, which Trump willfully ignored. For that report detailed the way

President Obama, angered by Russian hacking during the 2016 elections, authorized a covert cyber operation to deploy ‘implants’ in Russian networks that could be triggered remotely in retaliation to any future cyber aggression by Moscow.

But I digress …

It has been obvious to me for decades that China would rather have a stable North Korea with nukes than a war-ravaged one. It fears, quite reasonably, that military intervention would create a migration crisis a thousand times worse than the one war-ravaged Syria has created.

Meanwhile, I watched in utter bemusement earlier today as two foreign-policy experts debated the North Korean crucible on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS. They spent all of their time rehashing the merits and demerits of talks (between the US and North Korea), sanctions (by China), security guarantees (by the US), and military exercises (between US and South Korea). The problem is that, since the 1990s, successive Chinese and US governments have been trying each of these, to varying degrees, to no avail.

Even worse, one of Zakaria’s experts, Nuclear Nightmares author Joe Cirincione, exclaimed that Trump’s policy on North Korea is an incoherent mess. Never mind that this is about as insightful as a nutrition expert exclaiming that Twinkies are filled with empty calories.

For his part, Trump has done nothing but talk tough and pass the buck on North Korea (and on practically every other issue). I called out his hypocritical cowardice in “Trump ‘Leading from Behind’ as World Reacts to (Latest) North Korean Nuclear Test,” February 14, 2017, and “Trump Depending on North Korea to Protect US,” April 20, 2017.

Now, having acknowledged that China has failed, you’d think he would feel compelled to make good on this boast/threat:

Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.

(Financial Times, April 2, 2017)

Except that Trump has been bluffing his way through his presidency from day one. This was thrown into stark relief just last week. That’s when a congressional ultimatum forced him to finally admit that he had nothing to back up this infamous threat against the former FBI director:

@realDonaldTrump

James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

5:26 AM – 12 May 17

But, as indicated, this was just the latest in a litany of bluffs that have been called to cowering effect. Chief among those were his bluff to

  • produce Barack Obama’s “African” birth certificate;
  • move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem;
  • renegotiate or withdraw from NAFTA;
  • build that wall and make Mexico pay for it;
  • label China a currency manipulator;
  • drain the swamp in DC; and
  • tear up Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Therefore, given his record, nobody should have any expectation that Trump will do anything “to solve North Korea.”

Because, as counterintuitive as it may seem, it will take military warfare to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. What’s more, this warfare will only happen if North Korea triggers it by escalating from merely testing nuclear missiles to actually bombing South Koreans or Americans (with nukes or even with conventional weapons)..

North Korean President Kim Jong-un might seem mad. But this baby-faced dictator is sensible enough to avoid pulling this trigger.

Which is why the advice I gave Obama — in “North Korea to The World: Nuke Off!” December 13, 2012 — is the only effective way to deal with the menace North Korea’s missile testing poses.

__________________

Obama should convene a coalition of the willing among Asia-Pacific countries (APEC) to forge agreement on the following resolution, which, significantly, would not be subject to a UN-style veto by any country (namely, China or Russia):

APEC

  • Recognizing that the United Nations is unable or unwilling to stop North Korea from violating its resolutions (most notably, res. 1718 against conducting nuclear tests or launching ballistic missiles) with impunity;
  • Finding that these violations pose an untenable threat to the Asia-Pacific region;

Resolves that:

  1. Instead of continuing the feckless practice of bribing North Korea with cash, oil and food to get it to stop these violations, APEC shall henceforth impose the severest possible sanctions, unilaterally;
  2. If, either as a result of misfire or deliberate intent, any of North Korea’s missiles even threatens any APEC country, the United States shall lead the bombardment of all of its nuclear and missile facilities until they are incapable of even setting off firecrackers, let alone launching nuclear missiles.

All else is folly.

__________________

I ended the February 14 commentary cited above by stating that Trump would do well to heed this advice. Consider that restated here. Significantly, this would mean no longer joining other Pavlovian leaders in treating every nuclear test North Korea conducts as if it were the first salvo in World War III.

With that, I see no point in writing another commentary on this kabuki nuclear dance unless North Korea actually triggers war.

Related commentaries:
Trump depending on China

*  This commentary was originally published yesterday, Sunday, at 3:43 p.m.

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