With reference to escalating tensions along the Korean Peninsula, South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently said that he is “confident that the U.S. will respond to the current situation in a calm and responsible manner.”
He may be the only one.
President Trump’s repeated references to America being “locked and loaded” for military conflict with North Korea, as well as his promise to rain down “fire and fury” upon the leaders of the pariah nation demonstrate very little calmness and responsibility in his approach to North Korea.
Of course, that many not be an all-bad thing. The typical ritual is that the Kim regime rattles its sabers, and the Western world, eager to avoid fire and or fury, capitulates and offering aid or an easing of sanctions.
The fact that Trump is unwilling to engage in this empty theatrical exercise is disconcerting to many, but may be a pragmatic approach to an intractable problem.
Much of where we are today with regard to North Korea can be traced back to the Clinton administration’s disastrous deal to give North Korea technology and resources that could be used to create nuclear weapons – in exchange for a promise that they would never use it to actually create nuclear weapons.
When it became clear that they had no intention of keeping their word and began violating that agreement on the day it was made, somehow that became the fault of the next president, George W. Bush. But that’s another story altogether.
In practical terms, there’s very little North Korea can could do to attack the United States. While it’s true they have a million-man army, getting a million soldiers across the ocean to where they can start shooting at us is problematic proposition at best. Transporting a million-man army is much more difficult than sinking them in the Atlantic.
The massive North Korean army does pose a large threat to South Korea. But fortifications built along the border would make it difficult for the North to invade their southern neighbor without incurring massive casualties themselves.
The last time the North stormed over the southern border, they were essentially on equal footing with regard to equipment and resources. Today, the North is starving to death. Their weapons would be considered state-of-the-art if it were still 1951.
All eyes aren’t on conventional weapons, but upon the North’s nuclear arsenal. Sure, it can’t hit any American assets other than the island of Guam. Indeed, even the idea that a North Korean warhead could travel uninterrupted for the eight to twelve minutes necessary to reach its target seems implausible given breakthroughs in missile defense technology. And many North Korean missile tests have blown up on the launching pad or ended up bellyflopping just off the coastline.
In 2010, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, suggested that Guam was in danger of capsizing if too many American military personnel gathered on one side of the island. That’s more ludicrous than the idea that Guam could all go up in a mushroom cloud, but only slightly.
This isn’t to say that North Korea doesn’t represent a major geopolitical threat, or that President Trump is handling this with grace and aplomb.
But this isn’t the first time that North Korea has made empty threats to usher in the nuclear apocalypse. It likely won’t be the last.
(Photo of a man wearing a Donald Trump mask during a ‘Stop the War’ protest by Leon Neal/Getty Images)