The United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. It is the only time that such weapons have been used in war.
Donald Trump, apparently unaware of these historically significant anniversary dates, yesterday threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” — a veiled nuclear threat — if it does not stop threatening the United States.
So now Donald Trump is making the same wild threats that Kim Jong-un and North Korea regularly make? Trump’s ‘fire and fury’ statement echoes North Korea’s own threats.
What is this, good cop bad cop? A return to Richard Nixon’s Madman Strategy with Tillerson reprising the role of Henry Kissinger?
The Washington Post reports, As Tillerson tries to assuage Americans’ fear, Trump highlights U.S. nuclear arsenal:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday defended President Trump’s forceful warning to North Korea to stop threatening the United States, and dismissed concerns that Guam is in any imminent danger from Pyongyang’s missiles.
“What the president is doing is sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong Un would understand, because he doesn’t seem to understand diplomatic language,” Tillerson said in an interview with two pool reporters while flying from Malaysia to a scheduled refueling stop in Guam.
“I think the president just wanted to be clear to the North Korean regime that the U.S. has the unquestionable ability to defend itself, will defend itself and its allies, and I think it was important that he deliver that message to avoid any miscalculation on their part.”
On Tuesday, Trump sharply ratcheted up rhetoric against North Korea, saying it would face “fire and fury” if it does not stop threatening the United States. Trump did not make clear whether he was responding to the latest bellicose remarks from North Korea or a report in The Washington Post that the North had successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead capable of fitting inside its ballistic missiles.
About that Post report: it is déjà vu all over again from a 2013 Defense Ingtelligence Agency report — at the time chaired by Gen. Michael Flynn — that North Korea had achieved miniaturization of a nuclear warhead it could deliver with an intercontinental ballistic missle (ICBM). That report was downplayed by other U.S. intelligence agencies as inaccurate. U.S. downplays report on North Korean nuclear missile capability. “The DIA has been issuing similar public warnings since 2005, but U.S. defense and intelligence officials cast serious doubt on whether North Korea can, in fact, fire a nuclear missile.”
While North Korea has recently advanced its ICBM program, there is reason to be skeptical that it has miniaturized a nuclear warhead and perfected the command and control telemetry to deliver such a nuclear weapon.
As this Post article cautions, North Korea now making missile-ready nuclear weapons, U.S. analysts say:
Although few discount North Korea’s progress, some prominent U.S. experts warned against the danger of overestimating the threat. Siegfried Hecker, director emeritus of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the last known U.S. official to inspect North Korea’s nuclear facilities, has calculated the size of North Korea’s arsenal at no more than 20 to 25 bombs. He warned of potential risks that can come from making Kim into a bigger menace than he actually is.
“Overselling is particularly dangerous,” said Hecker, who visited North Korea seven times between 2004 and 2010, and met with key leaders of the country’s weapons programs. “Some like to depict Kim as being crazy — a madman — and that makes the public believe that the guy is undeterrable. He’s not crazy and he’s not suicidal. And he’s not even unpredictable.”
“The real threat,” Hecker said, “is we’re going to stumble into a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula.”
Back to the initial report:
Hours after Trump’s comments, North Korea said it was preparing to send intermediate-range missiles near Guam, which is home to more than 160,000 U.S. citizens, including some 6,000 members of the armed forces. U.S. bombers have flown out of Guam on their way to joint exercises with South Korea and Japan over the Korean Peninsula.
So North Korea immediately called Donald Trump’s “red-line” bluff by threatening Guam with conventional intermediate-range missiles, something it has the capacity to deliver. North Korea clearly did not take Trump’s threat as a credible threat. Weak. Trump’s credibility crisis goes nuclear.
Tillerson is returning home from Asia where he stopped in Guam, which included brief meetings with some U.S. military personnel.
Our Twitter-troll-in-chief resorted to Twitter today to call attention to the might of the U.S. nuclear arsenal:
Trump asserted that U.S. nuclear power was “now far stronger and more powerful than ever” after his administration moved to “renovate and modernize” the arsenal.
“Hopefully we will never have to use this power, but there will never be a time that we are not the most powerful nation in the world!” Trump wrote.
As a negotiation strategy, this is not working:
On Monday in Manila, where Tillerson was attending a regional security conference, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho issued a lengthy statement vowing that his country would never relinquish its nuclear weapons. Ri said the “nukes” would be used only against the United States, and he asserted that the entire U.S. mainland is within range of North Korean missiles.
Tillerson said North Korea’s rhetoric shows that the campaign to turn Pyongyang’s allies against it is working.
Russia and China, North Korea’s main economic lifelines, both supported a new set of U.N. sanctions passed last weekend that could cut the country’s revenue by a third. And the Association of Southeast Asian Nations approved a statement expressing “grave concern” over North Korea’s actions.
Sanctions only work if they can be enforced. To date, previous sanctions against North Korea have been lax in enforcement. China leaks like a sieve in supplying North Korea.
Tillerson said he knew of no significant changes in the last 24 hours that could speed a move to military action. Nor does he see any reason for a change in strategy. Diplomatic and economic isolation is working, he said, even if it could take a long time to materialize.
“I think in fact the pressure is starting to show,” he said. “I think that’s why the rhetoric coming out of Pyongyang has gotten louder and more threatening.”
Tillerson also said Americans should not worry about the increasingly angry tone displayed in recent days.
“I think what the president was just reaffirming is that the United States has the capability to fully defend itself from any attack, and our allies, and we will do so,” he said. “So the American people should sleep well at night.”
No, he wasn’t joking. Tillerson actually said this with a straight face.
The Trump administration is not speaking with one voice on North Korea. Today, Defense Secretary James Mattis undermined Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s efforts to calm the heated rhetoric. Mattis to North Korea: Stop actions that could lead to ‘destruction of its people’:
US Defense Secretary James Mattis issued a dramatic ultimatum to North Korea on Wednesday to “cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and destruction of its people” — strong words that come just one day after President Donald Trump warned that the US could unleash “fire and fury” on Pyongyang.
“The DPRK must choose to stop isolating itself and stand down its pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Mattis said in a written statement, adding that the “regime’s actions will continue to be grossly overmatched by ours and would lose any arms race or conflict it initiates.”
On Wednesday, Mattis called on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to cooperate with the international community.
“Kim Jong Un should take heed of the United Nations Security Council’s unified voice, and statements from governments the world over, who agree the DPRK poses a threat to global security and stability,” he said.
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“While our State Department is making every effort to resolve this global threat through diplomatic means, it must be noted that the combined allied militaries now possess the most precise, rehearsed, and robust defensive and offensive capabilities on Earth,” Mattis said.
“The United States and our allies have the demonstrated capabilities and unquestionable commitment to defend ourselves from attack,” he added.
For all this bellicose posturing, the United States is not presently prepared for a preemptive strike. Before any US war with North Korea, we’d see this. Of course, anything could happen. Nations stumble into wars.