A Saner U.S. Policy Towards North Korea

There has been volumes written on how to handle the North Korean situation……most of which has centered around some sort of military action…..very little on a more sane approach.

Some will ask…..mostly those on the neocon Right, that will ask if that is even possible. The American Conservative offers up a look at a more sane foreign policy.

There are seven postulates that ought to inform U.S. policy regarding North Korea.

First, our objective. Nothing is more important than to be clear about what we are trying to accomplish. Our purpose should be to provide for our own security and that of our allies, especially South Korea and Japan, while avoiding war. Our purpose should not be regime change in Pyongyang or forcing Kim Jong-un to abandon his nuclear weapons program. Both of those may be desirable. Neither is worth a large-scale war.

(Read on……..)

Source: Seven Steps to a Saner U.S. Policy Towards North Korea | The American Conservative

I will not, no cannot agree with everything they put forward but it is good to see that the Right still has thinkers….put as quickly as the Trump group is trying to purge any actual conservatives from the party…..how long before these saner voices are silenced?

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Only A Matter Of Time

There has been so much macho banter between Trump and Kim these days that it could get damn right boring.

Between “fury and fire” to Kim’s latest, “US should be tamed with fire”….that is is only a matter of time before one of these jabs hits a nerve and some moron unleashes that which most NEVER be unleashed.

Right now the US and South Korea are having their military exercises off the Coast of the Korean Peninsula……in a show of strength and intimation toward North Korea has gotten Li’l kim’s dander up….

North Korea is once again threatening to launch missiles toward Guam, the New York Times reports. The US territory is in the crosshairs this time over a joint naval exercise being held by the US and South Korea and scheduled to start Monday in the waters around South Korea. “We have already warned several times that we will take counteractions for self-defense, including a salvo of missiles into waters near the US territory of Guam,” says Kim Kwang-Hak, a researcher at the Institute for American Studies at the North Korea Foreign Ministry. “The US military action hardens our determination that the US should be tamed with fire and lets us take our hand closer to the ‘trigger.'” While the US maintains the exercise, like previous ones, is defensive, North Korea sees it as practice for an invasion.

Asked about North Korea on Friday, President Trump said, “We’re totally prepared for numerous things,” the Los Angeles Times reports. He added: “We’re going to see what happens.” A day earlier, John Kelly said North Korea’s potential ability to hit the US with missiles should concern Americans, according to CNN. “Let’s hope that diplomacy works,” the chief of staff said. Despite earlier comments, Trump also said Friday that he’s “open” to negotiation. “But if it’s going to be something other than negotiation, believe me, we are ready—moreso than we have ever been,” the president added.

People like me keep trying to bring attention to the problems that all this bluster could produce…..and the GOP seems determined that something be done…..weapons wise…..and they are gaining in support for the use of these weapons….

Even as Bob Corker, one of the most prominent members of the Republican caucus in the Senate, continues to sound the alarm about President Trump’s rhetoric about North Korea, a new poll says nearly half of his party’s voters support a preemptive strike against the country. In a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, 46% of Republican voters say they support attacking North Korea, while 41% are opposed to a preemptive strike, the Washington Post reports. Those numbers come after months of amped-up rhetoric between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over Pyongyang’s nuclear testing. During a speech at the United Nations last month, Trump said the US would have no choice but to “totally destroy” North Korea “if it is forced to defend itself or its allies.”

In general, American voters oppose a preemptive strike 62% to 26%. In addition, a large majority of the country doesn’t trust Trump to handle the situation with North Korea at all, Newsweek reports. Rather, voters say, by a margin of 65% to 28%, that they have confidence in “top national security and diplomatic officials” to handle the situation. “Voters don’t have confidence in President Donald Trump to handle North Korea, but they’re hoping other members of the Trump team will step up,” Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, says.

Then the SecState weighs in on the situation…..

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has continued with his same public narrative on North Korea over the weekend, insisting that the US is committed to trying to solve the situation diplomatically, and will remain committed “until the first bomb drops.”

Forgive me but I was under the impression that the SecState’s job was to see that the bombs Do Not drop…..none of this rhetoric is doing anything to calm the situation (maybe that is the plan all along)….

None of this is very promising for a peaceful conclusion to all this verbal hostility…..thank goodness there are still a few that have a clear mind and are not swayed by diatribes.

We can only pray that these sane individuals will prevail.

North Korea Remains Forefront Of The “War” Talk…..

I wish we could go one day without someone stepping out of the shadows and thumping their chest about the possibility of war.

The rhetoric is not going in a good direction…..even the word coming from the dark shadows of the White House are not encouraging….

A White House aide says there’s no misunderstanding what President Donald Trump means when he says “only one thing will work” to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, AP reports. Budget director Mick Mulvaney tells NBC that Trump’s “clearly telegraphing, and this should not be news to anybody,” that “military options are on the table. … They absolutely are.” Trump says years of talking to the North and providing aid haven’t worked.

But Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy wants Trump to “stop doing hurtful things to the country’s national security, like telling the North Koreans that there is no diplomatic path for them to give up nuclear weapons.” GOP Sen. Ron Johnson says “there is no viable military option. It would be horrific.” The senators were on CNN.

Of course this could be just a response to something NK has issued…..who knows for sure….it is almost impossible to keep up with the back and forth between the two regimes.

Here is where I add what the war would look like ……I just cannot let all the stupidity go on without pointing out the possible results of this insanity…..

At various times over the past few weeks, US President Donald Trump and other members of his administration have threatened to use military force to prevent North Korea from conducting additional nuclear or ballistic missile tests. The US carrying out any military option raises a significant risk of military escalation by the North, including the use of nuclear weapons against South Korea and Japan. According to the calculations presented below, if the “unthinkable” happened, nuclear detonations over Seoul and Tokyo with North Korea’s current estimated weapon yields could result in as many as 2.1 million fatalities and 7.7 million injuries.

Source: A Hypothetical Nuclear Attack on Seoul and Tokyo | RealClearDefense

No matter how “patriotic” you think you may be….it is still necessary to look at all aspects of the actions that are being considered……it involves a lot more than the firing of a couple of missiles.

Think about this…..NK is not the only nuke ordinance in the region.  Of course ther4 is Iran….but there is another that could be thrust to the forefront of the nuke situation…..Pakistan.

Could North Korea’s example form the template of future actions by Iran and Pakistan? Both states are now under renewed pressure by the United States, and may thus deem it in their interests to acquire a deterrent against the United States. There is indication that U.S. President Donald J. Trump has been looking for a way to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal for a while, a deal he has repeatedly denounced as “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”

Source: Could North Korea’s Example Inspire Iran and Pakistan? | The Diplomat

While NK is the focus of the situation….there are others in the shadows that could be inspired in one way or the other…..to look at this situation with blinders is just short of insanity.

We He Go Or Will He Stay?

We have had a couple of days of high drama…..did Tillerson call Trump a moron or not?

Well we still do not know for after his, Tillerson, speech he never clarified that one point….he worked hard to say everything that the president wants to hear……and it worked for now….for Trump has come out patting Tillerson on the back and saying what a fine American he is.

Tillerson has contradicted Trump on many occasions and yet he still retains his job….does not sound like a Trump deal now does it?

Truth be told I was not a fan of Tillerson after his nomination….I thought he was a poor choice to run one of the most important cabinet posts…..he brought nothing in way of experience to the job.

How much longer can Tillerson sing the Trump tune….especially on the handling of North Korea?

Rex Tillerson could be the worst of the 69 secretaries of state in the history of the republic, but he did not deserve the drubbing he took Sunday from his boss.

Moreover, Washington’s efforts to disarm North Korea were not served by the public humiliation of America’s chief diplomat over the weekend.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” President Trump tweeted Sunday morning. Then came the second blast “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

It was bad enough that Trump blasted “Rex” in public, but to compound the sin, the president did so while Tillerson was in Beijing, talking to the Chinese about disarming North Korea. China insists, as a price of its enforcement of sanctions, that America try to negotiate with Pyongyang. Trump’s words, therefore, undercut efforts to get Beijing to cut off the flow of cash to the stocky Kim Jong-un, also now known, thanks to Trump’s previous insults, as “Little Rocket Man.”

Source: Can Tillerson Sing Trump’s Tune on North Korea?

This last thing, the “moron” comment, has this growing rift between Tillerson and the president……can this thing be handled so that Tillerson keeps his job?

The American Conservative has taken a closer  look at this situation…..

Despite Tillerson’s denials yesterday and Trump’s denials today, the rift between him and the president is impossible to ignore. The Postreports:

For months now, Trump has been piqued by rumors of disloyalty that have filtered up to him from Foggy Bottom, the home of the State Department. In private meetings, the president has also been irked by Tillerson’s arguments for a more-traditional approach on policies, from Iran to climate change to North Korea, and by Tillerson’s visible frustration when overruled. Trump has chafed at what he sees as arrogance on the part of an employee.

And as Tillerson has traveled the globe, Trump believes his top diplomat often seems more concerned with what the world thinks of the United States than with tending to the president’s personal image [bold mine-DL].

If Trump thinks the Secretary of State’s job is to burnish the president’s personal reputation instead of promoting the interests of the U.S. (and I have no difficulty believing he thinks that), it is little wonder that he and Tillerson are such a poor fit. Tillerson may already be widely regarded as one of the worst Secretaries of State in modern times, but even he seems to understand that boosting Trump’s personal image isn’t part of his job. Even if it were part of his job, Trump would make it impossible for him to do that because he is constantly gainsaying Tillerson in public. The president chose Tillerson for the position, but can’t keep himself from second-guessing and contradicting his own appointee and thus guaranteeing his irrelevance in the eyes of other governments.

Source: The Tillerson-Trump Rift | The American Conservative

This situation is just silly…..Tillerson is gone it is just a matter of optics when.

Right now Trump has lost so many high placed advisers that he needs to kick back and wait for a better time….he will continue to feel up his base and when they come on-line with Tillerson leaving….then he will be gone like a dirty shirt.

My guess is, unless something changes, buy January 2018.

Why No Progress Over The Years?

With all the mash up between NK and the US and Trump saying that after many many years of trying and nothing getting done on the nuke front….it is time to face reality.

Listening to Trump got me to thinking about the negotiations between NK and the US and I had to see just what has actually been done over all these years of debate…..

After much research I found a great chronology of the North Korean-US negotiations…..

For years, the United States and the international community have tried to negotiate an end to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and its export of ballistic missile technology. Those efforts have been replete with periods of crisis, stalemate, and tentative progress towards denuclearization, and North Korea has long been a key challenge for the global nuclear nonproliferation regime.

The United States has pursued a variety of policy responses to the proliferation challenges posed by North Korea, including military cooperation with U.S. allies in the region, wide-ranging sanctions, and non-proliferation mechanisms such as export controls. The United States also engaged in two major diplomatic initiatives to have North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons efforts in return for aid.

In 1994, faced with North Korea’s announced intent to withdraw from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), which requires non-nuclear weapon states to forswear the development and acquisition of nuclear weapons, the United States and North Korea signed the Agreed Framework. Under this agreement, Pyongyang committed to freezing its illicit plutonium weapons program in exchange for aid.

Source: Chronology of U.S.-North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy | Arms Control Association

Looks like they have tried to cover all aspects of diplomacy to get NK back in line with the rest of the world…..if so then ….is a military solution all that is left?

Why Not Diplomacy?

Finally back to what could be called normal.  I really do not like posting from the phone….but that is when drafts come in handy.

With North Korea in the headlines daily some are asking why we cannot find some sort of ground for a diplomatic mission.

A good question.  As it is now the back and forth between Trump and Li’l Kim leave NO opening for that possibility.  The constant Tweeting by Trump and the constant chest thumping by Li’l Kim is like two playground bullies trying to one up each other over recess.

Until an opening can be found then there will be no deals to end this mash up to war.  Best way to find an opening is to let the “bullies” go silent and put into place diplomats that have experience…..without that opening there is no sense talking about a diplomat solution.

Then there are the vacancies in the defense department and state that make it difficult to look or find a peaceful solution.

When a new U.S. president takes office the January after an election, his or her administration takes over not only the world’s strongest and most powerful military, but also a robust and complex foreign policy bureaucracy. From the moment of inauguration, the work done by the incoming president’s transition team in selecting, vetting, and nominating political appointees, as well as career professionals, who share the president’s policy agenda, is then meant to swiftly translate into getting those appointees confirmed by the Senate and installed throughout the dozens of agencies that make up the federal government.

As of September 15th, President Donald Trump had nominated 347 individuals, 140 of which had been confirmed. Compare this to the same point in the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama: by mid-September, Bush had nominated 573 with 316 confirmations; Obama 450 with 321 confirmations. And out of Trump’s numbers, only 24 individuals have been confirmed at the Department of State (compared to 83 and 86 respectively by the former presidents) and 15 at the Department of Defense (compared to 22 and 33).

Source: Do Diplomatic and Defense Vacancies Risk U.S. Security? – The Cipher Brief

Without knowledgeable people in place a situation will continue unabated until we have those resources that can spot these openings and exploit them for peaceful gains.

This Is Embarrassing

Back in the early days of the Trump campaign I said then that there were a few positions I could go along with….mostly in his foreign policy.  But once elected he has shown me nothing….his disdain for the State department is most troubling….then his policy handling through the use of Twitter nis another disturbing aspect for me.

But I think his approach to the problems in Korea have turned my stomach about as far as it can go….he has become an embarrassment……for example…..

Trump’s North Korea policy was put on display on Sunday morning, as the President’s plan to deal with the nuclear weapon pursuing regime is to mock them on Twitter.

Trump tweeted:

I spoke with President Moon of South Korea last night. Asked him how Rocket Man is doing. Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad!

The President undercut any attempts being made to solve this crisis with a single tweet. Trump’s social media statements are why the North Koreans don’t take him seriously. The presidency is not reality television. Taunting and mocking aren’t the same as governance. The reason why the Kim regime has accelerated its nuclear program so quickly is that they tested Trump early in his presidency and realized that he is going to do nothing to stop them.

It is almost as if the President is trying to provoke an armed conflict in North Korea. Trump wants to be a wartime president, and his childish taunts are only pushing a crisis closer to the brink. While Trump tweets, the regime continues to launch missiles and develop their nuclear program, and when the crisis hits the breaking point, Trump will take no responsibility while claiming that the military was his only option.

As an international relations professional I am having a hard time dealing with this amateurish attempt at foreign policy.

His speech to the UN may be more telling….but I am thinking….NOT!