May 13, 2019

Tensions Flare With North Korea

“North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles toward the sea [last] Thursday, South Korean officials said, its second weapons launch in five days.” AP News

Also on Thursday, “U.S. authorities announced… that they have taken control of a coal ship North Korea was allegedly using to evade international sanctions.” NPR

See past issues

From the Left

The left sees these missile tests as proof that the Trump administration's efforts at diplomacy are not working.

“The spectacular summits between the North Korean leader and his American and South Korean counterparts, the lofty joint statements that emerged from them, the Trump-Kim love letters and demolitions of a nuclear-test site and guard posts along the border between the Koreas—all of it was resting on an exceedingly fragile foundation, a foundation that is starting to crumble. We’ve now descended to the point at which all that is keeping diplomacy with North Korea from collapsing is how many miles its missiles are flying.”
Uri Friedman, The Atlantic

“After last week’s missile test, Trump tweeted that Kim ‘does not want to break his promise to me. Deal will happen!’ And on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signaled that the Trump administration is basically fine with these short-range missile tests, as long as there are no tests of ICBMs…

It’s dangerous messaging, as it allows North Korea to continue to improve its weapons arsenal and raise regional tensions — all while negotiations are supposed to be taking place about reducing its weapons arsenal and improving regional tensions. That could make it harder to strike a deal by year’s end, which is the deadline North Korea has set. If that’s the case, Pyongyang says it would restart testing ICBMs — which would only make the situation worse.”
Alex Ward, Vox

“Pyongyang may have calculated correctly that Trump is unwilling to let his signature foreign policy success slip through his fingers… [But it] may also be playing a longer game. It has shown in the past that it is perfectly willing to wait out difficult US Presidents and wait for a change in leadership that will give it a chance to restart negotiations and earn more time to shore up its military capabilities… While many analysts have observed that North Korea had potentially the best US President it was going to get in Trump, due to his willingness to break with tradition and desire to make an historic deal, Pyongyang may feel that it has struck out and is better off trying President number 46.”
James Griffiths, CNN

“The president has no obvious interest in national security and foreign affairs, except insofar as such things affect him personally. [But] even if the president wanted to direct a more coherent foreign policy, there’s not much of a team left to direct. A quick read of the rosters in the Departments of State and Defense leaves the impression that the most common last names in the higher echelons of government are ‘Vacant’ and ‘Acting’... There is no more a ‘Bolton Doctrine’ than there is a ‘Trump Doctrine’...

“Trump has avoided a major conflict so far through a combination of luck and the opportunism of America’s enemies… But this will not last. The United States, and the international system it helped create, cannot continue indefinitely along a path of incoherence and ignorance. Trump might not even be in office when the reckoning comes. The question is whether we will be ready.”
Tom Nichols, USA Today

“North Koreans are starving… Pyongyang’s crimes against its own people do not absolve those who can help North Koreans but don’t

“Perhaps the Trump administration quietly believes, or hopes, that privation will spark a revolution. It didn’t during North Korea’s famine in the mid-1990s, when millions of people starved to death. It’s possible. But who knows? As alumni of the Arab Spring, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and even Trump’s 2016 victory can attest, revolutions are notoriously difficult to predict. Maybe a second famine would topple the Kim regime. But let’s not abet the deaths of thousands of children for that political science experiment.”
Isaac Stone Fish, Washington Post

From the Right

The right sees these missile tests as proof that the sanctions are working, and urges Trump to stay the course.

The right sees these missile tests as proof that the sanctions are working, and urges Trump to stay the course.

“No one wants to return to the 2017 days of name-calling and long-range North Korean missile tests. But maintaining the sanctions pressure on the North is essential to persuading Mr. Kim that he can’t roll the U.S. with false nuclear promises one more time.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Since his second meeting with President Donald Trump ended abruptly without an agreement, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has allowed a midnight press conference in Hanoi; fired his diplomatic team; called for the removal of an American cabinet member; thrown down an end-of-year negotiating deadline; threatened a space rocket launch and fired off short-range projectiles… [He] is reeling, epically uncertain about what to do… Perhaps equipped with a new negotiating team, straining under the growing weight of sanctions, Kim might yet adjust his thinking and sign a comprehensive deal to eliminate all his WMD.”
Patrick M. Cronin, National Interest

“Despite all the doubters and the apoplectic press in Korea and the U.S., the fact remains that the allies are standing together. Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo are of one mind on the ultimate goal here…  the most important step to take in response to Kim’s latest steps is to keep the pressure on… This not only sends a strong signal to North Korea but also a message to Iran as well: The U.S. won’t concede something for nothing, least of all when the other side pitches a fit.”
James Jay Carafano, Fox News

“The broader context here is North Korea's crop crisis. If Kim hasn't got sanctions relief by August's end, a painful winter is coming… Absent Kim's commitment to suspend all ballistic missile tests, the U.S. should not support the provision of food supplies to the North Korean people. A North Korean long-range nuclear strike capability poses an existential threat to American society… Trump must not allow North Korea's coming suffering to dictate his decisions. Supporting North Korea with food will both prolong North Koreans' suffering under Kim and directly undercut U.S. interests.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

Some argue, “It stands to reason that if Kim is willing to starve his own people, deprive his economy of any growth, and pour billions of dollars into missile tech, he will, at some point, develop weapons America and its allies mastered decades ago. And short of an invasion or a diplomatic agreement, under the present circumstances, there is very little we can do to stop him…

“Taking a hardline approach—what many call the ‘big deal’—or only granting sanctions relief after full denuclearization and the end of Kim’s missile programs is completely impractical and something North Korea would never agree to… only a step-by-step process of disarming Pyongyang, where each side gets a benefit for making a concession, will work.”
Harry J. Kazianis, The American Conservative

Others posit that “the reason Kim is developing missiles that can strike Seattle or LA is that 28,000 U.S. troops are in South Korea… If we cannot persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons in return for a lifting of sanctions, perhaps we should pull U.S. forces off the peninsula and let China deal with the possible acquisition of their own nuclear weapons by Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan…

“After an exhausting two weeks [between North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and others], one is tempted to ask: How many quarrels, clashes and conflicts can even a superpower manage at one time? And is it not the time for the United States, preoccupied with so many crises, to begin asking, ‘Why is this our problem?’”
Pat Buchanan, Townhall

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