US policy toward North Korea has not changed under Trump, but the language has

MAY’S MEMO – Commentary By Christopher May

The position of the United States under the Armistice agreement signed in 1953 holds that a ceasefire will exist, although the US and South Korea remain ‘at war’ with North Korea, making it technically the longest war in modern history.

Should the North attack the US or South Korea, then the ceasefire will end. US foreign policy by every administration since has been in the spirit of the armistice agreement, and alliances with Japan and South Korea – both of which have been threatened by North Korea over the decades.

Perhaps with the benefit of hindsight, the Clinton, Bush or Obama administrations could have taken military action before the situation we have today took place, but any rational leader and public would support exhausting all diplomatic options first.

Trump’s warnings this last week that North Korea would be met with “fire and fury” if they attacked the US territory of Guam, Japan, South Korea or indeed the US mainland is merely a colourful way of communicating longstanding US policy toward North Korea.

The Chinese position is clear: they do not want war on the peninsula – which would quickly result in US and South Korean troops on the Chinese border, and millions of refugees. Like Eastern Europe during the reign of the USSR – North Korea acts as a buffer state between China and US aligned countries – similar to NATO in Western Europe.

China’s ultimate position would be a reunited Korean peninsula under the North – however given this is a long shot, their aim would likely be maintaining the status quo – a North Korean state reliant on China and ‘peace’ on the peninsula (because as of writing this, all out war has not begun).

War with North Korea would be a bad idea, but it should never be an option that is off the table. Sanctions over the last couple of decades have not stopped their nuclear ambitions.

The only deterrent to North Korea firing those missiles is the clear message Trump is sending: the US and its allies have overwhelming military force and the regime will come to an end very quickly should they launch an attack, nuclear or otherwise, against the US or its allies.

All-out war would be the highest casualty war we have seen since World War II.  The nature of North Korea’s rhetoric and stance toward the US and its allies, the mass starvation and slavery of its people proves it is not a state that would be a responsible nuclear power. But denuclearisation should always be pursued through peaceful means, until such time as an attack is made by the North.

It is important to remember that unlike under previous US administrations, North Korea now has ICBMs and the capability to put nuclear warheads on them. This situation has been inherited by the Trump administration, the dynamics of this situation now place cities such as Los Angeles and Chicago at risk. It is no longer a threat to Japan and South Korea – the US mainland is at risk.

The Soviet Union never openly fantasised about nuking Washington DC, the strategy there was gaining power through proxy wars. While North Korea’s rhetoric makes Iran seem reasonable, the leadership there would surely understand the power imbalance, unlike with the Soviet Union, there would not be mutually assured destruction – but only destruction of their regime.

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