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The Nork's Nukes
Trump to Beijing: We’ll Solve North Korea With or Without You

Ahead of a major summit with Xi Jinping this week, President Trump issued what at first blush seemed to be a very stark threat to North Korea in a much-discussed interview in the Financial Times over the weekend:

“China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t,” Mr Trump said in the Oval Office. “If they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.”

But he made clear that he would deal with North Korea with or without China’s help. Asked if he would consider a “grand bargain” — where China pressures Pyongyang in exchange for a guarantee that the US would later remove troops from the Korean peninsula — Mr Trump said: “Well if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.”

President Trump ordered a policy review on North Korea shortly after taking office, in no small part due to President Obama’s candid, and apparently alarming, advice during the transition period. But even before the review was done, the Trump Administration has sought to convey that they are operating with a brand new rulebook. A jarringly apocalyptic piece in the New York Times a few weeks back, detailing the progress of Pyongyang’s nuke program and the United States’ repeated failures to get a handle on it, a few weeks back seemed to foreshadow this administration’s rhetorical escalation.

Still, we’ve not quite yet left Kansas, Toto. Past administrations have also complained about Chinese intransigence, and weighed a more extensive sanctions regime—just like Trump’s recently-completed policy review reportedly recommends. This time around, however, the stakes are higher. Recent reports suggest that Pyongyang is developing thermonuclear weapons, even as it steadily marches toward building an ICBM capable of delivering it to California. For all their bluster, past U.S. administrations have been able to kick the can down the road. Donald Trump may not have that luxury.

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  • Suzy Dixon

    The Chinese Communist Party supports the regime in Pyongyang. Asking them to curtail their bad behavior is absurd. It’s not a mistake that the Kim regime has existed and persisted for as long as the CCP in Beijing. The Chinese are the enablers and supporters of the Kim regime, and account for 90% of NKs trade.

  • D4x

    North Korea has massive artillery pointed at South Korea’s 2018 Olympic venues. As much as we all fear for California, the timeline for getting NorK to behave is well before Feb. 9, 2018.

    The US chairs the UNSC in April. Hope Amb. Haley has a resolution that might actually, finally, end the Korean War. Frozen conflicts since WW2 seem to only create new conflicts, more sanctions that do not change anything, and more refugees.

    Does China still see the Korean peninsula as it’s border? One wonders.

    • Andrew Allison

      We all fear for California not for the, thus-far non-existent threat of a NOK strike, but for the its manifestly insane governance.

      • D4x

        I would sell California to China for two-three trillion$, plus a new Great Wall to keep the residents from escaping. Then no one could include the obligatory “NorK can launch a nuke and hit California” sentence in every assessment of why NorK should NOT have nuclear weapons.

  • Nevis07

    The analysts continue to get it wrong. NK already has the ability to hit the mainland US with nukes, but more likely an EMP attack, which would be even more devastating. The h-bomb tests may well in fact not have been failures at all, but specialized “super EMP’s” where you would expect low-yield explosions. Russian generals have even told the US’s EMP commission that their own scientists have likely aided in that pursuit. Both South Korean and Chinese officials have also stated that NK have developed super EMP’s.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Aside from the rather overblown nature of an EMP threat (much of the debate about it is done by those utterly innocent of the physics involved), the Norks have no need for such an elaborate toy to achieve their real goal, the ability to deter American response to their aggression against the South. Even a relatively small nuke, delivered by submarine or cargo vessel rather than a missile, would be devastating to the US, and thus would provide a superb deterrent. The missiles are for the Nork’s closer neighbors, though even here I suspect that they have more ‘unconventional’ delivery systems in mind.

  • mdmusterstone

    Play time is over.

    Everyone in the area is hostage to some other country.

    -The Chinese use NK as a cat’s-paw against the US, the unspoken policy being that they might reign NK in any day now but mean while don’t put too much pressure on us for our island building in the SCS.

    The Chinese are never the less hostage to not wanting anything escalating to nuclear use in NK or in the more likely event of conventional attacks that will destabilize the regime and send tens of millions of NKs across the Yalu which would translate into a major hit on the Chinese economy.

    More, China would have to send troops into NK to stabilize what was left, who would meet SK troops moving north to do the same… whatever that would turn into.

    -South Korea is hostage to a North Korean conventional attack without even mentioning anything nuclear. Soul is some ten millions and within artillery range (old but many of) of the NK army (several millions in and of itself). Any serious attack would destroy the SK economy and set it back incalculable years–look how long it took the Germans.

    -The US is hostage in the long term to NK missiles but in the short term the 2nd Inf. Div. right on the 38th parallel would just be overwhelmed by an all out attack.

    -Russia, with the smallest dog in the fight surely can’t see any up side to a war on their border that might go nuclear.

    -NK? They are hostage to going one step too far, one time too many.

    What to do?

    Start evacuating our civilians, start with a certain number and then double it each succeeding week. I can guarantee on the first day of the first evaluation we will have the complete attention of the leadership of China, Russia, NK and SK.

    And in three languages there will be many sentences starting with the words… “Wait a minute, what are you doing, you can’t…

    But of course we can. And now everyone is hostage to us. For once, since 1950, we will have the initiative on that peninsula.

    The SK government will likely go insane and foolishly order us to leave the country. I hope we have learned our lesson by now that you can’t save other countries from themselves. We pull out the 2nd Inf. and now we have no direct hostages in the game and SK has no more cards left to play.

    Maybe that will be enough. I have to believe that the Chinese have some long knives already in place prepared to deliver the head of the Great Leader on a moment’s notice–and how could Lil’ Kim not know or worry about this? Worse he’ll know that his chance for a visit to Disney World is, sigh, forever over.

    But if that isn’t enough…

    We tell the Chinese and Russians that in three days we will announce that the next missile or nuclear test by NK will be their last. A one sentence declaration. Period. Further, any mobilization or moving of significant military assets will be considered by our country as an act of war and receive immediate, overwhelming retaliation.

    Three days is enough time for rice and borsht bowls to be arranged if they have need of arranging this late in the day.

    Now there will be welter of sentences starting with, “Oh, no you wouldn’t… ” but how many players would want to find out the hard way if the president “would”? And can anyone make a convincing, or even unconvincing, argument to wait, that things will get better? Time is a wasting asset in this situation.

    I would expect that the Democrats would, short sightedly, try to stab the president in the back at this last point. If the president can pull it off the Dems will be a party found only in the history books, if he doesn’t get a clean pull-off every eye will be focused on the Dems for having hindered our chances.

    Play time is over.

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