Tuesday, June 12, 2018

If a Concession is Needed

Did North Korea really agree to get rid of their nukes at the Trump-Kim meeting? And do it soon enough to preclude the need for America to strike North Korea's nukes to protect America?

If Kim Jong-Un wants a tangible concession on US troop presence in South Korea for giving up North Korean nuclear weapons, we might have a win-win offer to make.

We should absolutely not pull missile defenses out of South Korea. And we need our aircraft, artillery, and helicopters to support the South Koreans.

But we have just a single combat brigade in South Korea that is a drop in the bucket. It is a symbol of our commitment but it is not a significant addition to a war given that multiple corps and armies will be wielded by both Korean armies.

Our ground contribution would be major once we ship forces to South Korea, but that will take a while. So in the short run our firepower is more important than our ground forces.

So why not very publicly pull our single maneuver brigade out of South Korea and replace it with a Military Police brigade as part of a nuclear deal?

The MP brigade that quietly replaces the combat brigade would be really good light infantry to secure our bases to keep them open for shipping in those American troops and to protect prepositioned equipment for arriving American troops.

The withdrawn American maneuver brigade could go to Hokkaido Island in Japan where it will be close to South Korea, will face Russia that holds Japanese territory north of the island, and would be farther from Chinese missiles and so able to move to counter Chinese moves.

The end result is that we would have a bit more ground forces in the region and no North Korean nukes. Could that be a concession that helps North Korea sell nuclear disarmament to their people (and generals) as a good deal?

I'm not convinced that Kim is serious about doing anything but talking about disarmament long enough to finish his nuclear missile arsenal.

So if the Trump-Kim meeting yesterday in Singapore is just the first step for a long process of negotiations rather than the start of a very rapidly concluded deal, I don't know if we are doing anything but playing into North Korea's hands.

The only way this diplomatic path can last years is if China takes control and responsibility for North Korea's nuclear weapons and facilities.

It may very well be that the only useful function of the Singapore meeting was to demonstrate to the world that America went the last mile for diplomacy, making a very serious American-led strike campaign to destroy North Korea's nukes truly the last resort.

As an aside, I'm not happy to make a nuclear deal with such a horrible and brutal regime. But the ability to deal with North Korea's human rights crimes ended when North Korea blew its first successful nuclear device. That failure is on past administrations that let North Korea get to this point. So "all" I want Trump to do is end North Korea's nuclear arsenal.

As another aside, the last person I want to hear give his opinion on this issue is that deceitful and inept Ben Rhodes who sold the lies--to and through a compliant media--that were the foundation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

UPDATE: It didn't occur to me until now, but selecting Singapore as the meeting site tells North Korea that you can have a wildly successful and advanced but ultimately authoritarian state.

UPDATE: And while I'm skeptical that this diplomatic initiative can work before we need to strike, I've also said that things remain the same--until they don't.

So just because past deals have been frauds doesn't mean we can't get a deal under today's circumstances.

UPDATE: I'm not thrilled we suspended military exercises in South Korea. On the other hand, we finished the Foal Eagle spring exercise; and the next major exercise is a couple months away.

We probably need to have real progress in that time frame to avoid the possibility that North Korea is just buying time by pretending to negotiate away their nukes. Although perhaps our estimates of passing the nuclear missile threshold are more comforting--and more certain--than I thought.

UPDATE: I'm not celebrating just because Trump has done this. I remain worried that we have too little time to see if diplomacy is an alternative to war if we truly don't want to accept a nuclear-armed North Korea, provoke nuclear proliferation, and risk deliberate or accidental nuclear war.

But just because Trump did this, a lot of people on the left who normally swoon at a foreign anti-American thug dictator, couldn't care less about the dignity of the American flag, and who think all problems with enemies require America to talk a little more and give a little more, can't say enough bad things about the Trump-Kim meeting.

I don't know if this will work. And I don't know how much time we have to test whether North Korea is serious. But I do trust this administration won't make a deal just to have a deal.