Robert Burns and Matthew Pennington of the Associated Press tell us:
“U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is visiting the Korean Peninsula at a momentous juncture in the faltering effort to persuade Pyongyang to halt and dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Ominous questions hang in the air.”
Why momentous? North Korea has in the past been successfully so persuaded. And it’s subsequently been antagonized and threatened until it recommenced. This has gone on for decades, while it’s been 64 years since a peace treaty should have been signed that never has been. It’s been 14 years since North Korea resumed building nukes. It’s been ten grueling months of Trump’s regime during which nasty comments and threats have been passed back and forth across the Pacific schoolyard. What makes this moment momentous? Stay tuned. AP will explain.
“Is diplomacy failing? Is war approaching?”
Is the wind blowing? Are you kidding? Are diplomacy and war external forces that impose themselves on humanity? North Korea has been very clear and reasonable in its demands, even while screaming its threats and defiance. If the United States will stop moving missiles and planes and ships close to a country it once destroyed, and stop threatening to destroy it again, North Korea will discuss doing what Iraq and Libya did before they were attacked: disarming. The question is not “Is war approaching?” “Ominously!” The question is: will Trump and his subordinates continue to refuse to negotiate? Will they insist on war?
“Mattis’ second trip as Pentagon boss to Seoul will take place Friday, following his consultations with Asian partners on a unified approach to resolve the North Korea crisis. In the Philippines, his Japanese counterpart spoke darkly of an ‘unprecedented, critical and imminent’ threat posed by the North’s repeated demonstrations of its ability to launch an intercontinental-range missile, potentially armed with a nuclear warhead.”
Did this person really speak darkly? What did it sound like? Were they using the dictionary definition of “imminent,” and if so on what basis? Or were they using the White House Office of Legal Counsel definition of “imminent,” meaning “theoretically could occur within the millennium”? Can’t the United States launch nuclear ICBMs? Can’t Russia? China? What is unprecedented?
“Twice, in August and September, North Korean missiles overflew Japan’s northern Hokkaido island, triggering alarms and warnings for citizens to take cover. As North Korea’s capabilities rush toward putting the U.S. mainland in range, Mattis has stuck to the American diplomacy and pressure campaign led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The goal is to compel the North to a complete and irreversible removal of its nuclear arsenal.”
So, the Associated Press can see the future? And it sees there, very soon, North Korean nuclear missiles that can hit the United States? And the path away from this is “diplomacy and pressure” — a phrase that suggests a lack of comprehension of what diplomacy is? It is not “Hello, sir, I’m here to respectfully discuss how we can work things out, and I’m constantly kicking you in the ass purely because that’s how I respectfully warn people what’s coming if they don’t comply. Now, what do you believe needs to be done? Kindly bend over a bit. There we go.” Has the AP heard that Tillerson’s efforts in this regard were further sabotaged, as if they needed it, by Captain Twitter Master, whom Tillerson reportedly called a moron, while the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the president believed he was living inside a television show, but the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee pitched in by proposing to exterminate North Koreans, whom the President merely wants to “totally destroy”?
“‘Everyone is out for a peaceful resolution. No one’s rushing for war,’ Mattis told reporters Wednesday on a flight to Thailand. From there, he is traveling on to South Korea. But there are increasing suggestions of possible military confrontation. Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, said last week, ‘We are in a race to resolve this short of military action,’ adding, ‘We are running out of time.’”
There it is. That’s why this moment is momentous. The U.S. military has set a deadline for war, and if they don’t launch a war by then, well, well . . . well, then there won’t be a war yet, that’s what! Imagine if the U.S. had waited for the Taliban to turn bin Laden over to be put on trial, or given the inspectors a few more days in Iraq, or allowed a peace settlement with Gadaffi — where would we all be then, I ask you? Suburban Washington, D.C., wouldn’t be crawling with the luxury automobiles of newly wealthy weapons dealers, that’s what. Momentous.
“Michael Swaine, a longtime Asia specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that while he is hopeful of averting conflict, ‘I don’t see any clear signs that there is progress in either coercing the North Koreans into starting to talk about denuclearization or finding some other path toward some kind of engagement with North Korea.’”
The emphasis is on the Endowment, not the Peace. A nation that is arming in response to threats and coercion doesn’t disarm in response to more coercion. Would the United States?
“‘Recent months have shown a worsening of the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea that is very troubling to me,’ he said in an interview. ‘I’m concerned about the president’s upcoming trip to Asia where the North Koreans could use this as an opportunity to conduct some additional test.’ President Donald Trump will visit South Korea next month. Aides say he will not travel to the Demilitarized Zone, the internationally recognized buffer zone that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War. The fighting ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty, meaning the United States and North Korea are still technically at war. Trump has mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as ‘Little Rocket Man’ and threatened to unleash ‘fire and fury’ on Pyongyang if its leaders do not abandon their nuclear weapons.”
Thanks for acknowledging that. How does it fit with the storyline of the noble but futile pursuit of coerced diplomacy racing against the clock? Couldn’t the clock be turned back by Trump tweeting one nice thing or being impeached, or Congress forbidding war, or the South Korean government living up to its promise and booting the U.S. military out? That is, doesn’t the clock have numerous buttons and dials that can be manipulated? It’s not a magical clock, is it?
“Kim seems undaunted by threats and unresponsive to diplomatic overtures. He has traded insults with Trump and kept his country marching — some say speeding — toward a capability to strike any American city with a nuclear weapon.”
That was speedy. He got from California to Maine in just a few paragraphs.
“Trump has said he will never allow the North to reach that point.”
This, some may recall, was the case for attacking Iraq. It has weapons! It has weapons! It has weapons! Or anyway it could get weapons if not attacked, so we must defensively attack it!
Only, even Bush Junior and his quail-hunting sidekick picked Iraq over North Korea, as North Korea had nuclear weapons. It still does.
“In Seoul, Mattis will attend annual meetings Saturday with senior South Korean government officials and assess plans for countering the North’s threats.”
Even after quoting Trump’s threats to North Korea, the AP is proposing that the U.S. engage in some counter-threatening activities, rather than halt its threatening. Substitute “terrorism” for “threatening” and this is a familiar journalistic practice.
“He’ll also reaffirm America’s promise to defend the South against any attack, and possibly discuss the outlook for giving the South wartime operational control of its own forces. The U.S. has about 28,500 troops in South Korea, including at Osan air base where the Air Force maintains fighter aircraft. More than a decade ago, the U.S. was prepared to give Seoul operational control of South Korean forces in the event of war with the North, but the U.S. ally has repeatedly asked that the transition be delayed. In 2014, the sides agreed to drop any timetable and hand off control only when both decide conditions are right. Thus, U.S. Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, who commands all U.S. troops in Korea, also would be in charge of South Korean troops if war broke out tomorrow. The North’s Kim has vowed to complete his country’s development of a nuclear arsenal, a project begun by his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, in defiance of international condemnations and United Nations economic sanctions. Even China, the North’s traditional benefactor, has taken stronger economic measures to pressure the North to return to negotiations. None of the pressure has worked as the North insists a nuclear arsenal with global reach protects it from what it sees as U.S. efforts to overthrow the government.”
But doesn’t that admission of how North Korea views things create problems for the rest of this article that came before it? Didn’t the North, in fact, find U.S. plans to overthrow its government on South Korean computers? Didn’t it then begin building the missiles that the AP now foresees being able to reach the United States? Isn’t a way out, then, a lot less mysterious than we’re being led to believe? Wouldn’t merely committing not to overthrow another government, something Trump campaigned on, go a long way?
“Choe Son-hui, a senior Foreign Ministry official, told a conference in Moscow last week that his country will develop nuclear weapons and missiles until achieving a ‘balance of power’ with the United States. Conference participants recounted her saying the nukes were non-negotiable unless Washington ended its ‘hostile policy.’”
A pretty reasonable demand.
“The U.S. has stepped up the tempo of military exercises with allies, including periodic flights by strategic bombers over the peninsula and naval drills with South Korea last week. The activity has raised questions about whether Washington is showing force to deter Pyongyang or readying for a conflict.”
Either way, it readies both sides for a conflict and does not one damn thing in the way of “deterrence.” So what’s the question?
“After North Korea conducted a series of ballistic missile tests and an underground nuclear test in September that the North said was a hydrogen bomb, it has kept the world guessing on what it will do next. If it again launches a missile through Japanese airspace, will Japan or the U.S. attempt to shoot it down? Will the North detonate a nuclear bomb over the Pacific, as Kim’s foreign minister recently suggested? And could that presage war?”
How could anything not presage war once you’ve written yourself out of all possible avenues for peace?