Thursday, March 08, 2018

So Much Winning?

I hate to refuse to take "yes" for an answer to demands that North Korea abandon their nuclear weapons. But did North Korea say "yes?"

Feeling the pressure of sanctions, North Korea seems "sincere" in its apparent willingness to halt nuclear tests if it held denuclearization talks with the United States, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday as U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials voiced skepticism about any discussions.

And tonight the South Koreans, after coming to America to brief us, announce that President Trump will meet with the North Koreans for denuclearization of the peninsula.


Is North Korean acceptance of American-South Korean exercises (did I hear that right?) a concession or a clever ruse to seem sincere to make the final dash to nuclear ICBMs?

Will South Korea truly agree to keep sanctions tight until there are results from talks?

Japan and South Korea were right to voice skepticism. North Korea is very close to having the ability to strike America and thus deter an American disarming strike campaign by posing an unacceptable risk that a North Korean missile will survive the strikes and make it through our thin ballistic missile shield to destroy an American city.

That might negate America's nuclear umbrella over Japan and South Korea. Would America risk Seattle to defend Seoul and Tokyo from North Korean nuclear attack?

Can we trust North Korea to truly suspend nuclear work while we talk rather than use talks to shield their final dash to full nuclear status?

And lifting sanctions should not be on the table while the talks go on, of course.

What if we work with our allies South Korea and Japan to go to China and tell China we will talk to North Korea if China guarantees that North Korea really does freeze all their nuclear work.

And the incentive for China to go deep and enforce a freeze is that America pledges to provide South Korea and Japan with everything they need to have a nuclear deterrent very quickly if North Korea does use talks as a shield to achieve full nuclear capability.

Of course, if North Korea defies China and goes nuclear anyway, China will then have incentive to tell America what they know to improve our targeting if we decide we must strike North Korea despite their capabilities.

This negotiations path risks giving us a nuclear North Korea that can sell nuclear technology or weapons to Iran if the talks fail. But an attack on North Korea at this stage when North Korea likely has shorter range nuclear missiles is risky.

As are all options, of course.

So what do we do?

It is worth exploring, but we have a tight deadline, now don't we?

And I'll ask again, how did we miss the Golden "imminent" standard for preemptive action?

UPDATE: I did hear right and North Korea does not object to joint ROK-USA military exercises.

Also, the American military is continuing to prepare for a military campaign if necessary. That has seemed like what we are doing for many months now. That military preparation--along with sanctions--must continue in order to give North Korea incentive to use their budding nuclear arsenal to make a diplomatic gain before North Korea loses them--and perhaps more--in an American attack campaign.

I don't know if North Korea is really willing to verifiably eliminate their nuclear weapons arsenal.

But it is worth a try if we truly do have a year before North Korea has working nuclear ICBMs despite the risk that North Korea uses the allure of diplomacy to buy the time to gain a nuclear deterrent against American military action.

Remember, if America continues to prepare for war, a personal meeting between Trump and Kim along with talks is a strong signal to the world that America tried every avenue short of war to solve the North Korea problem before ordering a last resort attack.

So we've got that going for us.

UPDATE: Yes, the North Koreans could be trying to pull their time-tested scam of buying time and goodies for worthless promises:

It's historic all right, but there's an enormous hazard that it's a step right into the same old North Korean trap.

North Korea has a record of deceit that includes not only the series of broken nuclear deals over the past 24 years, but the surprise invasion of South Korea way back in 1950, with which Kim Jong Un's grandfather, founding tyrant Kim Il Sung, triggered the 1950-53 Korean War. The totalitarian character of the regime itself -- a system built on brute force, threats and lies -- ought to warn us that Kim's goal in proposing a summit is not to surrender to maximum pressure, but to deflate it, via assorted diplomatic stunts. All the better for Kim to regroup and carry on with North Korea's predatory projects, global rackets and nuclear missile program.

One thing that has always frustrated me about negotiations is the all-too-common Western belief that negotiations are an alternative to war while enemies used talks as part of their war. So the pressure here to "give" something to show good will--time, aid, suspension of fighting--is strong and exploited by enemies who may just need a breather to regroup and continue the kinetics war.

So this makes me feel better:

The United States vowed Friday there would be no let-up of pressure on North Korea until it takes concrete steps to end its nuclear program after Donald Trump agreed to meet Kim Jong Un in a stunning diplomatic gamble.

If preparations for war, joint exercises with South Korea, and tightening sanctions continue while we talk, that will mean we are less likely to be falling for the same old scam again.

UPDATE: North Korea says they won't buckle under military pressure and sanctions:

The official media of North Korea on Saturday (March 10) said neither military pressure nor sanctions from the United States would work on the country, amid reports that Pyongyang and Washington could start a top-level dialogue soon.

Good. Then they can't complain too loudly about ending that pressure while we chat about their nukes.