Misunderstanding prevails regarding the threat of a US preemptive strike against North Korea. The intentions of the Pentagon are unclear. Moreover, Washington does not have the firm endorsement of its regional allies including South Korea and Japan. In the wake of ROK President Park’s impeachment, grassroots opposition has been building up within South Korea against US military presence in the region.
Dangerous crossroads: The DPRK has intimated in no uncertain terms that it will forcefully retaliate if is attacked by the US.
Meanwhile Beijing has warned Washington. China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, intimated that: “one has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment”.
“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not to let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,”
“We urge all parties to refrain from inflammatory or threatening statements and deeds to prevent the situation on the Korean Peninsula from becoming irreversible,” Wang said when meeting with the press following talks with French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault. (Xinhua, April 14, 2017)
There is no intent on the part of China, following the Donald Trump Xi Jinping encounter at the Mar-a-Lago Florida resort last week to support or in any way endorse a US preemptive attack against the DPRK. In fact quite the opposite.
It should be noted that the deployment of the THAAD missiles in South Korea although officially envisaged for the DPRK is targeted at China.
And there is no indication that China would in any way compromise its military alliance with Russia under the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). In this regard, China is also firmly aligned with Russia (e.g at the UN Security Council) in relation to the evolving crisis in Syria.
Moreover, Russia has a border with North Korea and Vladivostok is a strategic military hub hosting Russia’s Pacific Fleet.
According to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson:
“President Trump indicated to President Xi that . . . we would be happy to work with them, but we understand it creates unique problems for them and challenges and that we would, and are, prepared to chart our own course if this is something China is just unable to co-ordinate with us,” (Financial Times, April 7, 2017
Visibly, Beijing does not want to work with Washington.
Washington’s actions and intentions can be summarized as follows:
1. The USS Carl Vinson nuclear aircraft carrier group (image above) is moving towards the Korean coastline. Japan’s naval participation in this operation is unconfirmed.
2. “the US Navy has deployed two destroyers with Tomahawk cruise missiles some 500 kilometres from the North Korean nuclear test site”.
3. Of significance, on April 13, the US dropped a MOAB (Mother of all Bombs) in Afghanistan allegedly against the ISIS. The MOAB has been described as “a powerful new bomb aimed squarely at the underground nuclear facilities of Iran and North Korea”.
What’s the purpose of dropping it in a remote area of Afghanistan as part of an alleged “counter-terrorism” operation against ISIS? Is this MOAB bomb test in Afghanistan a “dress rehearsal”, prior to its actual military use (e.g. against North Korea) ? The explosion of a conventional monster MOAB bomb would result in a nuclear mushroom cloud similar to that of a tactical nuclear weapon.
4. The official annoucements by the Pentagon remain notoriously ambiguous. There is no confirmation of a preemptive attack against North Korea, despite NBC TV’s report that the US was ready to wage a strike against North Korea’s military facilities in response to Pyongyang nuclear tests scheduled for the weekend of April 15-16.
“International security analysts have cast doubt on reports that the United States may be considering a preemptive military strike against North Korea, warning such action could have huge consequences on a key U.S. ally and upset a carefully managed balance of power between Kim Jong Un and the West. (Nick Visser, Huffington Post, April 14, 2017)
Response of the DPRK
The DPRK has confirmed that if attacked, there would be a counter-attack largely targeting US military facilities in East Asia including Guam and Okinawa.
In the words of Vice Minister Han Song Ryol: “We’ve got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a US preemptive strike,… Whatever comes from the US, we will cope with it. We are fully prepared to handle it.” (quoted by AP)