A Non-partisan Political Commentary for Those Who Prefer To Think for Themselves
Saturday, August 12, 2017
An Old Fashion Show Down: Will Trump or Kim Blink First?
You know, I just don't get it. It makes absolutely no sense to me. What am I talking about? North Korea. Kim Jong Un. Donald Trump. Congress. For decades now, it seems that every time there is a new president, the North Korean government has to go and poke the bear as they say. They have to say or do something that's completely over the top just to gage a reaction. In the past, the North Koreans were simply content with making overtures about invading South Korea. They'd call up their military and conduct maneuvers near the border. They'd do flyovers into South Korean airspace and scurry back across. Every now and again, a tunnel will be found with its exit in some house or warehouse after conducting seismic scans based on noise detection monitors.
Apparently the entrance was in some North Korean building large enough to shelter a small advance force of maybe 100 or so individuals. Of course, they'd never actually catch anyone in one of these tunnels. These scans bounce sound waves into the ground. If what's below the surface hasn't been disturbed, the sound waves return with a solid wave image. However, if what's below the surface has been disturbed in some ways, the sound wave bounces back with a wider signal. This can not only confirm a disturbance under the surface, but also an approximate depth. By following along the path of the abnormality, a possible pattern may appear. This "pattern" or image can indicate that something is possibly amiss below the surface. That's when bulldozers, picks and shovel, and old fashion hard work and sweat comes into play. If there's something there, it's explored---allegedly up to the border with North Korea---mapped, and then destroyed. The Israelis have become experts at doing this. South Korea isn't too far behind.
However, more recently, North Korea's government has discovered a new way to annoy the US, Seoul, and their allies. For several decades now, North Korea has been "threatening" to develop nuclear weapons at just about every step of the way. At the same time, the West (and the US in particular) demand that research or whatever stage has been allegedly reached, stop. After the usual saber rattling by both sides, North Korea agrees to stop whatever its currently doing in exchange for massive amounts of crops, materials or billions in credit, which it can use for additional purchases, be it for agricultural products or technology. Meanwhile, it continues to received economic assistance China and Russia (assistance from Russia has been reduced since the collapse of the USSR). As just about any casual observer would likely note, North Korea's foreign policy is closely tied to its domestic economic policy which consists of pushing the West's buttons and using extortion to prop up its economy, and by extension, its government.
The latest move by North Korea's "dictator-in-short-pants", Kim Jong Un, has been to proclaim that its military has developed a few nuclear warheads along with a delivery system that's capable of delivering them. At first, Kim threatened South Korea as expected. When that failed to provide the desired reaction, a series of threats were leveled at Japan. Japan, as some of you may know, does not have any nukes of its own. In fact, Japan has the dubious distinction of being the only country to have been on the receiving end of a nuclear attack (which resulted in Japan's surrender and bringing World War II to an end). In addition, Japan does not have a military. Instead of its once mighty navy, it adopted a much smaller coastal defense naval force. In lieu of and despite a brilliant military tradition, Japan now has what passes for a home or national guard which act more in the capacity of safety monitor in the event of earthquakes, tsunami, or exceptionally large radiated reptiles and flying moth-like creatures.
Although that did stir up a hornets' nest with their historical enemy, that too didn't provoke the response Kim wanted. Besides, China was already challenging Japan for possession of several small islands and deep sea fishing areas which were also claimed by South Korea and the Philippines (which, apparently has decided that the best part of valor was to kiss up to the biggest bully on the block, which is China. Maybe they will throw some crumbs their way). So, what's a tin pan tyrant to do for attention? Well, apparently Kim decided that the best way to get the attention of the US, was to threaten the US itself, but not in a generic way as it had done in the past. Nope. No sir-ree! This time, instead of sending missiles in the direction of Japan or its nemesis, South Korea, Kim decided to send..not one...not two...but four Hwasong-12 missiles over Japanese airspace (where's Rodan when you need him? Oh well, there are still dozens of US bases throughout Japan) and have them splashdown near (18 to 24 miles) the island of Guam, which is a protectorate of the US as well as strategic navy base. What's more, these four missiles will (allegedly) be each tipped with a small nuclear warhead have a distance of 2,796 miles; well within range of Guam.
As an aside, Guam, which is the largest island in the Mariana Island chain at 210 square miles, was acquired from the Spanish in 1898 during the Spanish-American War. During WWII, it was attacked and captured by the Japanese just after the attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines on December 8, 1941. It was finally liberated in July of 1944 (the Battle of Guam lasted from July 10, 1944 to August 10, 1944). Currently there is approximately 162,000 people on the island, included some 7000 Naval and Marine personnel, along with Air Force B52 bombers, fighter jets, and support personnel. Recently, the US Army added a long range missile defense system. This system , named "THAAD", stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense. THAAD is designed to shoot down all manner of short, intermediate, and long range ballistic missiles. Guam also is also home to four nuclear powered fast attack submarines and two submarine tenders.
From a military perspective, it's likely that any launch by North Korea toward US bases or allies would be shot down and crash harmlessly in the Pacific. In some ways, I can understand Kim. First, he's has seen how his grandfather, Kim ll Sung and father, Kim Jong ll, were able to manipulate the leaders of other nations simply by threatening to rekindle the war with its neighbor to the south. Most people don't realize that the Korean War is still technically still on. All of the nations involved signed a temporary cease fire in order to continue with peace talks. Over the years, this cease fire has become more or less accepted as a "peace", though the North clearly doesn't see it this way and hence its justification for its actions.
Since taking power following the death of his father, Kim Jong Un has continued with the same strategy, and it has largely worked to date, but that may be changing. In dealing with George W. Bush, and especially Barrack Obama, Kim has had little trouble getting what he wanted and in actuality, risking little. It seems that a little "saber rattling" combined with the offer of a nuclear scale back "carrot" was all it took to get the groceries he needed to prop up his regime for a bit longer. Now he has to deal with Trump, who considers himself a non-bluffing master of the "Art of the Deal". Besides, with the corporate controlled media routinely going after him, and members of his own party challenging him at every turn, Trump could use an opportunity to flex his muscles, especially when his predecessors usually failed when it came to North Korea "stick and carrot" foreign policy tactics.
If Kim thinks Trump will blink first like everyone else had, he's in for a rude surprise. In fact, it looks like Kim's best friends right now might just be the US media and members of the US Congress. Why? The corporate media sees Trump as a usurper; as someone who denied Hillary Clinton her coronation, and more importantly, as someone who wasn't properly vetted and would play the game. Trump is a true outsider and will act on his own (when Trump said "fire and fury" would descend on Kim, his National Security Adviser quipped to some in the media that Trump was not "pre-approved" to make that statement, which give you an idea as to how things happen in Washington and how the government actually functions now that we're an Oligarchy.
While Trump has refused to blink thus far, I suspect Kim is hoping that enough pressure can be brought to bear on Trump to persuade him to back down and simply payoff Kim as everyone else has done. But what if they don't? What if they fail and Trump stands his ground? I wonder what would happen then---would the military ignore his order? Would Congress seek to remove Trump from office on grounds that Trump is mentally unbalanced? There are already calls to impeach Trump, although he really hasn't done anything impeachable (besides, how could anyone serious want to impeach Trump while Hillary Clinton is still free? She is guilty of numerous felony crimes). Would Trump's key cabinet members all resign at the same time, creating a domestic crisis? Trump and several key Republicans aren't exactly friends such as John McCain, Mitch McConnell, or Paul Ryan.
There are a lot of possibilities to consider. What if his comments about Kim and North Korea are to be taken at face value? Given the Trump "hate-fest", the corporate media, and members of his own party as well as the Democratic Party and others have painted Trump into a corner. That's a place where "The Donald" does not perform particularly well (nor do most people, including yours truly). Thus, Trump can be expected to come out swinging. He has to. Trump has been harassed, berated, insulted and ignored from the get-go. He has been made to feel that he has no place in the White House; that he is a fluke or aberration. Others want him just to show up with his pre-written speeches, kiss some babies, and leave; let the professionals handling everything else (as McConnell implied just a few days ago).
Nevertheless, if Trump continues to be "The Donald", he will hit North Korea hard. As soon as a missile launch is detected, Seoul's military along with Japan's Self-Defense Force will be notified. At the same instant, US military senior command in both countries and Guam will go on immediate high alert. I suspect that senior operation commanders have been given pre-approval launch missile interceptors as soon as they've received confirmation of the launch and missile type, and verified that they are cleared of all population centers. Guam will also be put in high alert and scramble their fighters and readied their anti-missile system (the THAAD system mentioned above). My guess would be that they'd be engaged as soon as they've passed safely over Japan. Meanwhile, air traffic control would be rerouting commercial and private flights away from the area while commercial ships will be ordered away from the area. After the missiles are successfully intercepted and the threat is removed, what will Trump do next? That's the billion dollar question. Will he "lay waste" to North Korea? Maybe, but then there's China to consider. They has the largest military in the world and one of the most modern fleets and aircraft out there. In addition, it has a lot of missiles of their own, not to mention nukes. They are also close allies with North Korea, although of late that relationship seems a bit strained. Russia, while an ally, isn't especially close to Kim or Korea.
Recently, Vladimir Putin said the Kim is bluffing. They have no nukes. He claims that Kim is just putting on a show like he's done in the past, except that he has overreached this time. I think that if we strike first, China will come to Kim's aid. Russia may if it looks like Kim's government is about to fall. If Kim acts first, China will do what it did in 1954. They will intervene if US or its allies get too close to its border (During the Korean War, China repeatedly warned the US led coalition to stay well south of its border with North Korea. When the US failed to do so, China responded aggressively and overran all US and allied positions before withdrawing). Finally, there's one other factor that needs to be mentioned.
North Korea, along with China and Russia have military and economic packages with Pakistan and Iran. Pakistan is supposed to be an ally, don't forget that they protected Ben Laden and his cadre of leaders. The fact that we caught Pakistan in a case of betrayal and lies, they don't exactly like us much. In addition, Pakistan's military and to an extent, its government, are increasingly coming under the influence of strict Islamists. The situation with Iran really doesn't need any explanation. I think they would use the occasion to order its two proxies, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, to attack Israel. How much support they get will depend heavily on whether Kim or Trump blinks first. I guess it comes down to who feels lucky.