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Grave threat that Trump may be seriously considering a first strike on North Korea

Is the Trump Administration Planning a First Strike on North Korea?  Saturday, November 18, 2017 By Gareth Porter, Truthout | News Analysis  Ever since the Trump administration began a few months ago to threaten a first strike against North Korea over its continued missile tests, the question of whether it is seriously ready to wage war has loomed over other crises in US foreign policy.

The news media have avoided any serious effort to answer that question, for an obvious reason: The administration has an overriding interest in convincing the North Korean regime of Kim Jong-un that Trump would indeed order a first strike if the regime continues to test nuclear weapons and an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Therefore, most media have shied away from digging too deeply into the distinction between an actual policy of a first strike and a political ruse intended to put pressure on Pyongyang.

The use of military threat for “diplomatic coercion” is such a basic tool of US policy in dealing with weaker adversaries that it is almost taken for granted in Washington. Even diplomats who have been deeply involved in negotiating with North Korea are supportive of using that threat as part of a broader diplomatic strategy. Robert Gallucci, the State Department official who negotiated the “Agreed Framework” with North Korean officials in 1994, noted in an email to Truthout, “We do want the North to understand that their actions could lead the US to a preventive strike — wise or not.”

The linkage between the Trump administration’s threat of a “military option” and US diplomatic pressure on North Korea was clear from its first suggestion that it might carry out a first strike. That suggestion came on April 13, immediately upon the completion of the administration’s policy review on North Korea, when NBC News reported that  “multiple senior intelligence officials” had said that the administration was “prepared to launch a preemptive strike” if officials “became convinced that North Korea is about to follow through with a nuclear weapon test.” A story in the Washington Post published the following day offered a slightly different version: The administration was “prepared to respond to another North Korean nuclear test” and had “a range of options at its disposal” but would not “telegraph its response in advance.”

However, an unnamed military official told the Associated Press that same day that the policy that had been approved by the National Security Council did not envision the use of force in response to a nuclear or missile test, thus revealing that the leaks involving the threat of a preemptive or retaliatory attack over North Korean testing were part of a clumsy effort at “coercive diplomacy.”……

The Trump administration could seek to increase the pressure on North Korea still further by making one or more moves preparing for — but short of — war. For example, it could bring more US ground troops into South Korea or Japan. However, the North Korean regime might well interpret that move as a signal that the US intends to attack and invade the North, since that would seem to be precisely the purpose of moving reinforcements into the theater. In fact, according to Jackson, the North Koreans told US diplomats during the 1994 crisis that they had studied carefully the US large-scale troop movements in preparation for the first Gulf War in 1990-91, and warned that they would respond to a move like that one in their region by launching their own preemptive attack.

It isn’t yet possible to know definitely whether the Trump administration intends to strike first against North Korea. The official threats of such a strike can be discounted as obviously related to an elaborate — if somewhat crude — psychological warfare campaign. But more twists and turns in US policy can be expected in the coming months, and the desperate desire to coerce Pyongyang may also have given rise to wishful thinking on the part of McMaster and, more dangerously, Trump himself, about deterring that regime’s response to a US first strike. That in turn could still pose a grave threat of yet another unnecessary and terrible war.


November 20, 2017 - Posted by | USA, weapons and war

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