FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Trump's ultimatum to North Korea: Superpower fury or premature articulation?
Posted:Aug 9, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Mayank Chhaya
 
The problem with issuing a dire ultimatum as a first response to a traditionally bellicose regime is that the one issuing it is boxed in. That could well be the problem that President Donald Trump could likely face as he deals with North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-Un's increasingly aggressive moves threatening the United States.
 
In a statement that is said to have taken the national security establishment by surprise, the US president said: "North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen." This came in the aftermath of unconfirmed reports that US intelligence had learned that Pyongyang has produced miniaturised nuclear warheads that can be mounted on a missile.
 
 
Coupled with the fact that it now has long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, the latest unconfirmed intelligence is certainly worrisome. However, through the retaliatory threat of unleashing "fire and fury like the world has never seen", thereby clearly implying a nuclear strike, Trump's statement may turn out to be too soon.
 
Rather than feeling chastised, North Korea seems to feel emboldened as its state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) issued several statements, including one that said the government was "carefully examining" plans to launch missiles at the US-controlled island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. The island is a greatly significant US strategic outpost in the Asia-Pacific region, 28 per cent of which is occupied by the military. There are currently 6,000 U.S. military personnel stationed there and there are plans to add another 5,000 marines by 2022.
 
That Pyongyang threatened to launch a missile strike on Guam in the face of the unprecedented warning from the US president speaks of the imprudence of its response. It is the kind of ultimatum that has to be backed with action without which Washington will have no next step as Pyongyang continues to ratchet up its aggression. Kim Jong-Un considers nuclear weapons as his only guarantee for survival in the face of mounting international pressure on him. He is not going to give those up, no matter what the international community might say or do.
 
Guam's 3,400-mile distance from Pyongyang is well-within its strike capabilities and it is not altogether inconceivable that a mentally besieged supreme leader might actually carry it out. If that happens, Trump can always retaliate well below his "fire and fury like the world has never seen" threat but that would expose his bluster to Kim, something America cannot afford. The 33-year-old Kim sees nuclear weapons as equalising him with the 71-year-old Trump despite such massive chasm between the two countries' military and economic strengths.
 
At a personal level, the idea that he is able to provoke a strong response from the US president senior to him by nearly four decades is bound to give Kim a considerable thrill. Traditionally, the North Korean leadership has thrived on such sabre-rattling and now that the sabre has a nuclear edge, it is expected to make diplomatic intercourse with him that much harder.
 
The US president's statement is in direct conflict with that of his own Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just a few days ago. "We do not seek a regime change," Tillerson said on August 1 before he set off on a visit to the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand. "We do not seek the collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel," he said.
 
Just over a week later, the situation has taken a 180-degree turn with the reports of Pyongyang being able to miniaturise nuclear warheads, stringent United Nations sanctions against North Korea, Trump's extraordinary statement and Pyongyang's threat against Guam.
 
The "fire and fury" statement has startled many. Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona, not known to shy away from wars, said in a radio interview: "I take exception to the president's comments because you've got to be able to do what you say you're going to do. In other words, the old walk softly but carry a big stick, Teddy Roosevelt's saying, which I think is something that should've applied because all it's going to do is bring us closer to a serious confrontation."
 
It is hard to make concession in the name of Trump's characteristic penchant for hyperbole and bluster because he is dealing with a leader who has lived outside international norms in the tradition of his father Kim Jong-Il and grandfather Kim Il-sung. Unless the US president thinks that he can conduct his country's foreign policy with a measure of matching cavalier style, his threat might turn out to be a case of premature articulation.
 
(Mayank Chhaya is a Chicago-based journalist and commentator. He can be reached at mcsix@outlook.com)
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has confirmed his presence for the occasion. In an exclusive interview with INDIA REVIEW & ANALYSIS, Indonesia’s Ambassador to India, Sidharto R.Suryodipuro, reminded Nilova Roy Chaudhury that the first Chief Guest for India’s Republic Day celebrations, in 1950, w
 
read-more
The words of Ho Chi Minh  “Nothing is more precious than independence and liberty” rang true for the people of the erstwhile East Pakistan when, with increasing brutality, the West Pakistani oppression spread across the land, writes Anwar A Khan from Dhaka
 
read-more
In a significant boost to New Delhi's Act East Policy, India and Japan set up the Act East Forum on Tuesday as agreed during Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to India this year for the annual bilateral meeting that would help to focus and catalyse development in India's Northeast.
 
read-more
  United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reiterated on Friday Washington's warning that “all options are on the table” to meet North Korea's nuclear threat while offering to keep the lines of communication with Pyongyang open.
 
read-more
The 15th trilateral meeting of the foreign ministers of Russia, India and China concluded in New Delhi on Monday with many nuanced takeaways embedded in the joint statement of 46 paragraphs. Reiterating that the forum “is not directed against any other country”, the statement underlined the importance of the establishment o
 
read-more
The first thing that one sees when a flight approaches New Delhi is thick smog that envelopes the city and its lack of greenery.  In almost all other major cities of India lack of greenery is the most obvious sight that one sees when approaching it by air.
 
read-more

Pakistan has agreed to allow the rupee to depreciate after holding talks with the International Mone­tary Fund (IMF) on the country's economy.

 
read-more

Two major global changes in the past year; the ‘Brexit’ referendum and the advent of Donald Trump, writes Sandeep Kaur Bhatia

 
read-more

It is also imperative for India to explore other regions for markets. Its trade deficit with Latin America has been narrowing. Also, its trade with Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala has increased, ...

 
read-more
Column-image

Over the last 25 years, India's explosive economic growth has vaulted it into the ranks of the world's emerging major powers. Long plagued by endemic poverty, until the 1990s the Indian economy was also hamstrung by a burdensome regulat...

 
Column-image

Title: A Ticket to Syria; Author: Shirish Thorat; Publisher: Bloomsbury India: Pages: 254; Price: Rs 399

 
Column-image

Gorichen, a majestic peak in the Eastern Himalayas at an altitude of 22,500 feet, is the highest in Arunachal Pradesh. Beautiful to look at and providing a fantastic view from the top, it is extremely tough climb for mountaineers.

 
Column-image

It is often conjectured if the reason for long-standing conflicts and insurgencies, in the developing world, especially South Asia, is not only other powers fishing in troubled waters but also the keenness of arms industries, mostly Western, to...

 
Column-image

Title: The People Next Door -The Curious History of India-Pakistan Relations; Author: T.C.A. Raghavan; Publisher: HarperCollins ; Pages: 361; Price: Rs 699