Since the November election we have seen President Trump’s disturbing pivot to the pacific rim. First he takes a call from the President of Taiwan putting decades of our carefully maintained one China policy in jeopardy.
China was disturbed enough to need calmed down by the Obama State Department. This was before the Trump’s inauguration. On the campaign trail The Donald railed against Chinese trade policies, our trade deficit, and accusations of currency manipulation.
Trump hammered China for not intervening in North Korea by not “going in.” During the campaign and transition it was a theme he returned to over and over.
Trump varies wildly in his views of Kim Jong-un. He praised the North Korean leader as a person who consolidated his position as a young man. During the same speech he called Kim a maniac with nukes who killed his opponents. His tenor has not varied much since Trump assumed the presidency. Though as usual Donnie conducts foreign policy 140 characters at a time via the Twitter machine.
In early January, ignored the standing tradition of one-president-at-a-time after the election, Trump decided to sabre rattle at North Korea while going after China for not doing enough. China slapped him down, reminding the president-elect he really shouldn’t throw gasoline on the dumpster fire that is the Korean Peninsula.
China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea. Nice!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2017
In this one sample tweet he went after China and North Korea. One tweet.
Trump has repeatedly threatened Kim and attacked China for not doing enough. He appears to believe that China can tug the leash and bring Kim Jong-un to heel at will. It seems no one in this Administration knows China plays a long game. His Orangeness plays Chutes and Ladders.
China has a long and complicated relationship with the Peninsula, from outright occupation to wielding influence through monetary and other support to the North. After all, Chinese troops were deployed during the Korean War. The urge to go into China cost McArthur his job.
China has always had goals in it’s Korean policy. China doesn’t want an annoying united Korea on it’s border. The Dragon wants to keep American attention on Korea to distract in our Asian policies. This helps to slightly blunt unfettered US projection of power and influence.
China also loves to project its power as a deterrent to Japan, a thriving South Korea, and burgeoning Asian economic power. More than anything China craves stability on it’s flank. With it’s support they have actual but limited influence in how their client state behaves.
Until the rise of Kim Jong-un, China was able to keep Korea in check. They allowed a nascent nuclear program to happen. The reaction from the West was crippling sanctions. The only thing allowed in was humanitarian aid.
Now even China seems to have far less influence to control Kim’s behavior. His bellicose moves threatening to strike the U.S. with nukes is actually an insane policy. Kim has to realize an American response to an attempted strike would be swift and terrible.
Kim Jong-un need only look at Hiroshima. The leader of North Korea seems more ready to push his country into national suicide than ever. Kim is testing the the Trump Administration to see if a White House in disarray can forge a coherent response. As it stands, this White House appears to be discarding diplomacy and threatening military action.
American responses are limited.
One move is to convince China to bring to bear all of it’s influence over Pyongyang. As China wants the status quo to remain without threats they are likely doing so already. However, the current American leadership seems to think China can be bullied and threatened into action. China tends to not respond well to threats. This is why we always temper our dealings with them. American policy until election of Tweeter-in-Chief has always been behind the scenes.
Another possible response is decimation of North Korean command and control capabilities. American air superiority can do this. It won’t be quite as easy as this White House seems to think it is (I sincerely hope the military leadership can educate Trump about this attitude).
North Korean airspace is among the most dangerous on the planet. The air defense is daunting but venerable. A lot of it is upgraded Soviet-era weaponry. There is also Chinese equipment. Add this to an extensive tunnel system and underground bunkers, and there are challenging problems for American air power. Our B-2 bomber and F-22 fighter’s stealth capability can and likely would overcome and heavily damage North Korean air defense.
This leaves the North with shoot-and-scoot missile launcher ability and a massive army to to threaten the South.
The most dangerous response is a ground attack following the airstrikes to force Kim out.
There are approximately 1.7 million soldiers in the North Korean Army with 7.7 million reservists. Any ground war would be the most bloody and drawn out action since WWII. This should be a non-starter. It would be with any other U.S. president.
The Trump Administration’s blasé threats concerning the idea of using military might to prove we are dangerous seems to be inspired by old John Wayne war movies. Trump has said we don’t win wars anymore.
The idea of an inexperienced president with a ready fire aim approach to global challenges is disturbing at best. Military strikes on North Korea could possibly draw China into the fray. Trump publicly asking why we have a nuclear capability that we don’t use is terrifying.
All we can hope for is the secretary of defense and the National Security Council can rein in Trump’s more bellicose, simplistic view of of American display of power.
We can only hope. Until we see it may be time for a return to the cold war fears of armageddon. If not fear, wariness of what blunders could happen drawing us into war.
Someone thinks these are viable responses. Who possibly could think deploying nukes in South Korea is a good idea?
God help us all.