- The Washington Times
Friday, July 7, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Whether those are war clouds forming far across the sea depends on how close that July 4 missile test by Kim Jong-un has come to crossing the line for President Trump.

It’s not even clear that Mr. Trump has actually drawn a cross-and-you-die line for North Korea’s supreme leader.


“I do not have the impression the president has defined a red line, beyond the usual prohibition against attacking our homeland or attacking our allies,” said Stephen Yates, who advised former Vice President Dick Cheney on national security.

Previous administrations’ ineffective economic sanctions against North Korea failed. Mr. Trump’s repeated warnings haven’t worked so far. The Pentagon planners have long prepared for a military solution as the last resort. The question now is how close is Mr. Trump to concluding that is now the only resort, with all the uncertainty of outcome that will bring.

The first successful ICBM test launch by Mr. Kim has been duly has hastened the realization that he’s unnervingly close to being able to vaporize millions of Americans on our West Coast.

Seven days ago Mr. Trump declared “the era of strategic patience with the North Korea is over.” Three days later Pudge of Pyongyang extended both middle fingers to Mr. Trump.

So now what?

“I am not optimistic the North Korea problem has a near-term, minimum-risk solution,” Steve Yates, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s deputy national security adviser. “Action is in the hands of Kim Jong-un. The U.S. and its allies are just reacting and hoping to manage risk.”

Though seemingly one brick shy of a full load, Mr. Kim is calling the shots while we stand around reacting? Hard to swallow.

Mr. Trump is by nature ill-disposed to standing around, but he now faces the danger of being regarded, like Mr. Obama and U.S. administration before his, as another paper tiger. I don’t think he is.

Mr. Trump has options, lots of them. He can send a delegation of envoys made up of former secretaries of state and defense and UN ambassadors to meet with Kim,” said former Assistant Commerce Secretary Carlos C. Campbell.

“Or he can convene a regional summit, on board a ship, and bring representatives from Japan, South Korea, North Korea, China, Russia and the U.S. to discuss strategies to mitigate the crisis and the implementation of those that are practical,” said Mr. Campbell, a former Defense Intelligence Agency officer.

But if summitry with Kim is seen as more of a delaying tactic not likely to yield much, people may wonder if the U.S. will begin to appear to our allies and our adversaries like a papier-mâché superpower, incapable of enforcing its peace-making will and stabilization efforts through diplomatic, economic or – even as a last resort — military means. That would lead many in the world see or think they see the 1.3 billion population China — North Korea’s one and only protector and financier — elbow past the U.S. and into the role of the world’s Superpower.

“It’s clear that nearly 25 years of diplomatic efforts, even when accompanied by economic sanctions, have failed,” concludes John Bolton, who was under secretary of state for President George W. Bush.

“President Trump seemed to continue the ‘carrots and sticks’ approach, first with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and more recently during South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s Washington visit,” Mr. Bolton, who was also UN ambassador, wrote this week in the New York Post.

Any good ideas short of war?

Mr. Trump can arm Japan with nuclear weapons that will get China’s attention and arrange to provide Taiwan with submarines” said Republican National Committee official Solomon Yue, who grew up in the communist China. “The U.S. can shoot down the next North Korean test missile.”

Well, maybe. Shooting down a test rocket out of Kimland is not a slam dunk and a miss would be embarrassing.

Mr. Yue has another idea: “Cut North Korea’s hard currency lifeline by increasing sanctions against communist China’s banks and firms that do business with North Korea, which will lead the North Korean economy to collapse.”

Mr. Bolton, more inclined to military interventionist than Mr. Yue, suggests

“China must be made to understand that, unless the [North Korea] threat is eliminated by reunifying the Peninsula, the U.S. will do whatever is necessary to protect innocent American civilians from the threat of nuclear blackmail.”

Ultimately, Mr. Bolton argues, “this unquestionably implies the use of military force, despite the risks of broader conflict on the Korean Peninsula, enormous dangers to civilians there and the threat of massive refugee flows from the North into China and South Korea.”

Mr. Bolton doesn’t flinch from issuing ultimatums to the second biggest power in the world. “They can work with us or face the inevitable consequences, which will be far more damaging to China than pinprick sanctions,” he says.

Mr. Yates, on the other hand, sees at least a modicum of promise in the Trump financial squeeze approach but he too warns against giddily holding hands and skipping down the lane with Mr. Xi.

“The Trump administration appears to be taking the right financial measures, especially when it comes to Chinese entities with ties to North Korea,” Mr. Yates said. “It’s also important that the U.S. and others not cede policy or strategic ground under the guise of seeking or maintaining Chinese cooperation.”

Mr. Yates, who resigned as Idaho GOP chairman to run for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, emphasized that there is “still the need to support democracy in Taiwan, freedom of navigation in East Asia, and a more balanced economic relationship with China.”

All the ways so far proposed to deal with Mr. Kim are as iffy as they are promising.

He attained the rank four-star general at age 28, an achievement earned neither on the battlefield nor elsewhere, so far as anybody outside his inner circle knows. How his other generals must love that. The evidence is that they live in constant fear of the supreme leader’s homicidal temper tantrums.

So the best hope may be to use military threats and economic pressures on Pyongyang to encourage Mr. Kim’s disgruntled generals to do to him what a group of Adolph Hitler’s generals tried and failed to do the Nazi leader: kill him.


Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.