The world is increasingly is entering a dangerous territory, as the US President is threatening North Korea with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”. The North Korean head of strategic forces, General Kim Rak Gyom has responded to Trump's statement, and the various other statements from senior US military figures in the last two weeks with nuclear threats against Guam, the US base within missile reach of North Korea. General Dunford, the Joint Chief of Staff, talked about the military option being on the table in the Aspen Security Forum, and HR McMaster, the National Security Adviser, threatened North Korea with preemptive strikes.
The US mainstream media – echoed by the global media – paints the US as responding to North Korean threats, whereas the reality has been that, it is the US that has threatened North Korea with the military strikes.
As written previously in this Newsclick article, North Korea has been the at the receiving end of US's aggression since the 1950's, and they are still reeling from the deadly attack, which killed one in five of its people and razed all its cities, towns and villages. It is the US that conducts large scale military exercises with live ammunition every year against North Korea and close to the 38th parallel, the de facto border between the two Koreas. There has also been no peace agreement between North Korea, South Korea and the US; what we have is an armistice or a temporary cessation of hostilities.
Faced with the military threat from the US, North Korea wants guarantees that will protect it from armed attacks - a guarantee that the US refuses to give. Hence, North Korea chose to build their nuclear arsenal and develop missiles with the potential of reaching the US mainland. The US may find this intolerable, but this is what all countries live with, particularly those who are called 'Axis of Evil' by the US.
Saddam and Gaddafi have given up their nuclear and chemical weapons, but it is highly unlikely that North Korea will do the same.
Dan Coats, President Donald Trump’s director of national intelligence, explained last week, that after Gaddafi's brutal death at the hands of NATO forces and its supported “rebels”, what we have all learnt is that, “If you had nukes, never give them up. If you don’t have them, get them,” making it clear, that this is the only protection against the US.
All UN Security Council members were united in sanctioning North Korea. Even China and Russia joined the US, in condemning North Korea's breaching of the earlier Security Council resolutions, asking them to halt missile launches. The expectation of such a resolution is to pressure North Korea to negotiate. The problem for the US is that, in any negotiations, the US will have to put on the table its military exercises and credible guarantees to North Korea and that North Korea will not meet the same fate as Libya and Iraq. But the US has no intention of doing so. Instead, it wants unilateral surrender by North Korea of its missiles and nuclear weapons, without conceding anything in return.
For North Korea, such a surrender poses an existential problem: give up its weapons and be invaded, or face a nuclear stand-off, hoping that the threat of millions of deaths, might deter the US. The problem is that these millions of deaths will be of the Koreans, Japanese, may be some Chinese, and Russians. But definitely not of the Americans. At the most, of a few US soldiers in Okinawa and Guam. For the US, a few million dead Asians might be an “acceptable” price, to keep America out of the reach of North Korean nuclear missiles.
After the Cuban crisis, we are probably closest to a nuclear war today. And the problem is not just the North Koreans. It is also about the world's sole super power, unable to impose its will on a small, Asian country. And for an erratic and an inexperienced US President, who's always under pressure from his domestic opponents, a war is always good for his ratings. Remember Falklands and the tremendous boost it gave to Maggie Thatcher? We all hope that the US and North Korea will pull back from the brink, because the alternative is too dangerous to contemplate.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick.