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How on earth did we get into a position where an unstable and dictator like Kim Jong Un has the capability send missiles over Japan’s airspace and to threaten the US with what appears to be a viable nuclear weapon?

Is this a failure of intelligence or a failure of world leaders, the UN, and in particular the UN Security Council to act effectively to stop nuclear proliferation?  A statement of disgust yesterday by the UNSC on the latest North Korean missile launch over Japan does not seem to have Kim Jong Um quaking in his boots.  This does not bode well with preventing Iran and other potential global ‘destabilisers’ from obtaining the ‘bomb’.

People in US, Seoul and the Far East are pretty vexed about a situation which is, apparently, of little consequence to the UK and Europe.

I am just back from the US and Australia where the reaction and coverage of the North Korean missile crisis is very different to that afforded in the UK and Europe.  People are very concerned.

President Trump is his usual bellicose self, but in deference to this, perhaps it appears Kim Jong Um might be wavering with his plans to attack Guam; but he does change with the wind, or should I say downwind hazard, and, I gauge, this impending disaster scenario is far from over.  It would be ‘sensible’, in my opinion, if not essential, for Trump to get the backing of the UNSC and in particular the Permanent 5 (US, UK, France, Russia & China), to neutralise the North Korean nuclear capability.  Otherwise, we are in for a whole heap of trouble, I expect, if Trump arbitrarily attacks North Korea to prevent, or in response to a North Korean nuclear tipped missile firing; even though, in theory, he can strike under UN Article 51 ‘self-defence’.

A Security Council resolution may encourage China and Russia to get more involved, and they will probably have more effective dialogue with North Korea than others; they have of course supported the UN resolution on sanctions hitherto.

Disappointingly, recently the UNSC has been inept in resolving the Syrian crisis, so I do not hold out any great hopes for a coming together over this, unless the P5 lead the way.  There appear to be fewer conflicts amongst the P5 over North Korea than there are over Syria, at least? I would like to hear UK Govt wade in as an ‘honest’ broker between US, China and Russia in UNSC; we, at least still have great credibility in the diplomatic space and could be the ‘glue’ to stick the P5 together where the US are unable.

Paradoxically, sanctions might be making the situation worse.  North Korea is desperately poor and relies on most of its trade with China to fill its coffers.  With this flow of money stagnating, and the world arrayed against Kim Jong Um he may feel he has no options but to shoot his way out?   Guam at the moment is strategically important. To attack Guam would be the same as attacking the White House, and this is still very much on Kim Jong Un’s mind, whatever bizarre sound bites he releases.

Conversely, a mishap by North Korean generals with missiles pointed at Guam, and/or a miss understanding/judgement of missile tests towards Japan could see ‘hell and fury’ unleashed on North Korea.  They would undoubtedly release what they could towards Seoul, including the deadly nerve agent VX, before being flattened by US power, in turn, with the possibility of this regional conflict turning global.

Kim Jong Un is a mad man who has already used the deadly VX to kill family abroad, and I do not think he would have any qualms about pressing the Red button in the context thus described!

Luckily, Rex Tillerson seems to be talking a lot of sense and at the moment President Trump appears to acquiesce to Tillerson’s clear thought, but I think it is the UN Security Council and most especially the P5 who might hold the key for both the US and for North Korea to get out of this without the Armageddon scenario playing out.

Though Kim Jong Un appears to be reigning back from attacking Guam, I expect this is more the case that his missiles are not quite ready, but they will be soon, rather than a normalising and rationalising of his thoughts.

Ultimately, is this a serious threat to world peace or just a bully wanting some recognition?  What is clear, is that the ‘International Communities’ counter nuclear proliferation strategies are not wholly effective and the UNSC must review this as a matter of urgency and the P5 must lead this review in unity and this includes ‘BREXITed’ Britain.



5 Comments on "How To Stop North Korea?"

  1. “How on earth did we get into a position where an unstable and dictator like Kim Jong Un has the capability send missiles over Japan’s airspace and to threaten the US with what appears to be a viable nuclear weapon?”

    Well for starters, the international community did absolutely nothing when India and Pakistan developed nuclear weapons, indeed the importance of these countries only seemed to increase upon becoming nuclear powers, what type of signal did that send?. Secondly the nuclear powers themselves have not exactly held firm to the spirit of the second pillar of the treaty on non proliferation of nuclear weapons. The UK has little ground to stand on in criticising proliferation while continuing to upgrade it’s ability to deliver nuclear weapons, regardless of whether it is in our national security interests to do so.

    I actually disagree that Kim Jong Un is a mad man, quite the opposite I would have thought. This latest launch was a well calculated response to the US/ROK military exercises. It was one missile, not four and whilst it flew over Japan, it travelled in the opposite direction to Guam, therefore not pushing the US into a corner and giving them very little excuse to react with military force. The fact that China failed to condemn the launch and indeed blamed US/ROK provocation for it showed that it hit just the right spot response wise. Flying over Japan while very provocative also served to highlight the inability of that countries missile defence systems to combat a missile flying at that velocity.

    In the Chinese foreign ministry press conference after the launch spokeswoman Hua Chunying had the following to say when asked the following question.

    Q: “The US and Japan call on increasing pressure on the DPRK. Will China join in their call? What does China think increased pressure means?”

    A: “With regard to your question, I wonder whether the US, Japan and the ROK have ever considered that the round after round of military exercises and ever-increasing military pressure have made them feel more secure, or less secure. After seeing the vicious spiral of tension, do they think they are closer to the gate of peacefully resolving the Peninsula nuclear issue or farther?”

    “The past has proven that pressure and sanction only will not fundamentally settle the issue. The Peninsula nuclear issue, as a long-standing one, is intricate and complex. The only right solution is to resolve the legitimate security concerns of all parties in a balanced way through dialogues. That represents the way to break the vicious cycle of endless nuclear tests, missile launches and military drills. The suspension-for-suspension proposal China put forward accommodates the legitimate security concerns of all parties, serves to draw everyone back to the negotiating table and seek a balanced and comprehensive solution through dialogue and negotiation, and ensure long-term peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula. We hope all parties could take our initiative seriously and give it some serious thoughts.”

    I would have thought that is mostly fair comment. Sanctions and military pressure have done nothing to improve the situation. Kim Jong Un’s statement that he would watch the US’s actions before deciding on a launch was about as close as you would ever get to an invitation to de-escalate from the DPRK leadership. Had the US announced a postponement of military exercises under similar conditions (as put forward in China’s suspension for suspension initiative of April 2017) we may now be closer to seeing a prospect of talks. It takes two to tango as they say, it’s all well and good calling on China to do something for home consumption but when you ignore their initiatives then it should come as no surprise when you find their support in the UNSC dries up. The US actions so far massively signal weakness, yet they aren’t prepared to take initiatives which may actually produce diplomatic results for fear of looking weak!. All options on the table is code for we will do sweet fa. What harm could taking the moral high ground and postponing those exercises for a month have actually done?.

  2. Hamish a great read and a question I have been asking over the last few days “How on earth did we get into this position?” You argue that sanctions could make things worse. So do you not believe if there was a global economic embargo including China it could trigger the collapse of the regime or if pushed to the limit it would seek to negotiate? You ask is this a serious threat to world peace or just a bully wanting some recognition? I think most of us do not want to find out. I was too young to remember the Cuban missile crisis and I appreciate this is a different scenario but the World does seem to be close to the brink and it is frightening. In the famous words of Albert Einstein “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

  3. Hamish de Bretton-Gordon | 30th August 2017 at 5:12 pm | Reply

    Thank you for your comments. This is a hugely challenging situation and the inconsistency is fuelling the confusion. My global concern is the ineptitude of the UN non proliferation policies. We were all under the impression that N Korea was still a few years away from a viable nuclear missile, this is now clearly not the case. I am not convinced that KJU will make rational decisions as many appear to be. I hope they are correct.

  4. Tim- what is your impression of the UN as regards its mission and effectiveness in general and specifically to the Korean situation?

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