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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 26-Sep-2017
26-Sep-17 World View -- US adopts strategic response to North Korea's threats to shoot down US warplanes

Web Log - September, 2017

26-Sep-17 World View -- US adopts strategic response to North Korea's threats to shoot down US warplanes

Is there a strategic explanation for Trump's statements and tweets?

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

North Korea threatens to shoot down US warplanes

An anti-US rally on Friday in Pyongyang, North Korea (KCNA/Reuters)
An anti-US rally on Friday in Pyongyang, North Korea (KCNA/Reuters)

Ri Yong-ho, North Korea's ambassador to the United Nations, said that Donald Trump had declared war on North Korea, and that therefore North Korea had the right to shoot down US warplanes, even over international airspace. According to Ri:

"The world, including all member states currently attending the United Nations General Assembly, must clearly remember that this time, America declared war on us first. The U.N. charter acknowledges all member states' independent rights to self-defense.

Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to make counter-measures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country."

Ri was probably alluding to the American warplanes that flew over international airspace just east of North Korea over the weekend. Pentagon spokesman Dana White described these flights: "This is the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea's coast in the 21st century."

White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to Ri's threats as follows:

"We have not declared war on North Korea and, frankly, the suggestion of that is absurd. ... It's never appropriate for a country to shoot down another country's aircraft when it's over international waters.

Our goal is still the same. We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. That’s our focus, doing that through both the most maximum economic and diplomatic pressures as possible at this point."

The events of the past three days follow months of increasingly vitriolic threats and exchanges. Recently, America's UN ambassador Nikki Haley said that North Korea was "begging for war." Russia's president Vladimir Putin said that North Korea would "rather eat grass" than end its nuclear program.

The claim of "declaration of war" is a response to president Donald Trump's speech last week at the United Nations, where he ridiculed North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un by calling him "Rocket Man," and saying he was on a "suicide mission":

"No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing, and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That's what the United Nations is all about. That's what the United Nations is for. Let's see how they do."

Kim responded with an equally personal insult directed at Trump:

"I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue. I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire."

Trump tweeted in response to Ri's threat: "Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at UN. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!"

Could North Korea actually shoot down a US warplane? Most analysts believe not. North Korea is believed to have thousands of Soviet-era surface-to-air missiles, but those are old technologies that US warplanes could presumably avoid. However, North Korea has produce its own KN-06 surface-to-air missile, and perhaps Kim believes that it could be successful in shooting down an American warplane. NPR and Washington Post and Foreign Policy

Is there a strategic explanation for Trump's statements and tweets?

What's going on here between the US and North Korea? Is this just two countries stumbling into war, or is there some strategy in operation? There are thousands of attempted explanations on the internet. This is mine.

America faces a very stark choice. Many people are suggesting that we do nothing, which would mean appeasement.

If we do nothing, then North Korea will build an arsenal of nuclear missiles pointed at Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Even if those missiles are launched, they can be used for blackmail. Kim would threaten US forces in South Korea, Guam, and elsewhere. Kim would demand that all of those forces be withdrawn, and he would have the support of China and Russia. He would also be supported by the same people who are advising appeasement now.

When the North Koreans make a nuclear threat, it's quite possible that they would carry it out. In 2010, the North conducted two acts of war targeting South Korea -- in May, North Korea torpedoed and sank the warship Cheonan, killing dozens of South Korean crew members, and in November, North Korea killed South Korean civilians by shelling Yeonpyeong Island. In both cases, the South Koreans chose not to respond, but it's pretty clear that they might have.

So I believe that doing nothing, appeasing North Korea, would lead to war, and I believe that the Trump administration has the same view.

Many of the analyses in the mainstream media start with the assumption that Kim Jong-un is correct in calling Trump a "dotard" and a "madman" with his finger on the nuclear button. These opinions are idiotic, but they are extremely common.

Donald Trump and the US are facing a stark situation. Doing nothing, appeasement, leads to war. Therefore, something must be done. Therefore, we can assume that Trump is following a strategy. I do not for a second believe the idiotic statements by mainstream reports that Trump's name-calling is random and uncontrolled. I believe that Trump's actions, including his tweets, are all part of a strategy. This is my opinion as to what that strategy is.

Part of the strategy is, of course, using strong sanctions, in the hope that North Korea will end its nuclear program. I don't think anyone serious believes that it will since, as Putin said, North Korea would rather eat grass. However, it's possible that the sanctions and threats of military action are really directed at the Chinese. It's apparent that Russia and China have absolutely no objection to North Korea having an arsenal of nuclear missiles targeting the United States, since they won't be targeting China or Russia. However, sanctions and military threats might convince the Chinese to force Kim to stop his nuclear missile program. So that's part of the strategy.

But in the end, no one seriously believes that any of these diplomatic strategies will work. If the US wants to prevent North Korea from having an arsenal of nuclear weapons pointed at South Korea, Japan, and the US, then military action will have to be taken. After Monday's threat to shoot down an American bomber, the Pentagon said that it is preparing military options for Trump.

Many analysts have said that no military action is possible without putting millions of people in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, at risk. However, several days ago, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis was asked whether there were any military options the United States could take with North Korea that would not put Seoul at grave risk. Mattis said: “Yes there are. But I will not go into details.” So I don't know if Mattis was telling the truth, but whether he was or not, some military action must be taken.

Several weeks ago, China said that if the US attacked North Korea first, then China would join North Korea in fighting the US. But if North Korea attacked first, and the US responded, then China would not defend North Korea.

So my explanation for Trump's strategy is that he's trying to provoke a military attack by North Korea. In 2010, the North Koreans attacked South Korea by torpedoing the warship Cheonan and by shelling Yeonpyeong Island, as described above. My belief is that Trump is trying to provoke North Korea to do it again, by means of the name-calling and by flying American warplanes just outside of North Korea's airspace. If the North even tries to shoot down an American warplane, then a counter-attack would be justified, and China has promised not to defend North Korea.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, we're seeing a typical pattern that historically has preceded any generational Crisis war, where each side "crosses the line," and the other side responds by "crossing the line" further, in a tit-for-tat ping pong of responses and counter-responses, eventually leading to war. As regular readers know, the world is headed for a Clash of Civilizations world war, pitting America, India, Russia, Iran and the West against China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries. Unfortunately, this is inevitable, no matter what strategy the US pursues in Korea. Fox News/AP and Reuters

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 26-Sep-17 World View -- US adopts strategic response to North Korea's threats to shoot down US warplanes thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (26-Sep-2017) Permanent Link
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