The world has never ever been closer to a nuke strike by a tiny but belligerent nation publicly admonishing and challenging the surviving super power. Will the eccentric, unpredictable and flamboyant young leader of North Korea decide to cross the rubicon? Will the strike be deliberate or by an error, time alone will tell. But one thing is certain; USA will think not ONCE but 55,000 times before taking military action against DPRK regime (USA lost 55,000 American soldiers in Korean war).
US diplomacy’s continued belief that the best and most effective way to make a nation state toe US dictates is by isolating the particular nation. Isolationist approach practiced by US in case of North Korea not only failed in containing the hatred towards USA but also resulted in North Korea becoming a ‘rogue nuclear weapon’ state. As on date both nations are involved in a game of brinkmanship, provocation and counter-provocation but with a difference. USA on her part is displaying an outstanding politico- intellectual deficiency to deal with the situation created by her past policies. Fiery statements by the current US president Donald Trump clearly indicate total dearth of political acumen. On the other hand the eccentric leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un is busy lighting up the skies with weekly launches and nuclear tests threatening to launch a nuclear tipped missile.
A peep into history without going back to Korean war of 50s will be essential to recognize the fact that USA has been instrumental in creating a ‘Pariah State’. Let us confine ourselves to events of 21st century in this regard. As the Y2K was nearing its end, the then Secretary of State Madeline Albright had invited Vice Marshal Cho Myong Rock, a close confidant of Kim Jong Il. In fact the meeting was so cordial and successful that Pyongyang had sent a invite to the then US president to visit North Korea. Bush regime, however, displayed aversion to continuing the dialogue with DPRK regime and declared North Korea as ‘Axis of Evil’.
Visit of Japanese Premier Junichiro Koizumi to Pyongyang on 17th September, 2002 was the last diplomatic high point. However after Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly’s meeting with DPRK officials everything changed and US-North Korea relations headed southward in a free fall. USA had unilaterally decided to renege on the agreement to provide two light water reactors, suspended the oil shipments. The dye was cast for DPRK regime to retaliate violently declaring the agreement as null and void and recommenced the work to operationalise the Yongbyon reactor and withdrew from NPT formally on 10th January, 2003. The most telling and disastrous event was to follow. DPRK regime announced that bilateral agreement with South Korea of 1992 to keep Korean Peninsula free from nukes was abrogated. USA had achieved the impossible.
Rest, as they say, is history. Pyongyang conducted the first nuclear test on 9th October, 2006. DPRK regime adopted fast pacing of their launch vehicle programme as well. On 5th April, 2009, the DPRK regime launched its first satellite. Era of imposing sanctions and more sanctions had commenced. But with every set of new sanctions imposed on North Korea, the DPRK regime’s resolve to throw a ‘bloody punch’ at USA at time of their choosing only became stronger.
As on date a nuclear strike by DPRK on mainland USA and possibly Japan is not out of realm of impossibilities. Japan absorbed two nuclear strikes for being a US adversary in 1945. Japan may have to absorb a nuke strike for a third time for being a US ally.
Ms Nikki Haley, permanent US representative in the United Nations read out a prepared statement in the Security Council meeting called by USA, Japan and few other nations to discuss the ‘Threat to International Peace due to North Korea testing a ‘Hydrogen Bomb’ on 3rd September, 2017’. Her remark that “North Korea was begging for war” was a clear manifestation of US hypocrisy when dealing with other nations, specially the nations located in the so called ‘Third World’ region. Incidentally the term ‘THIRD WORLD’, the most obnoxious term was coined/ used by an American economist to identify the ‘poor and deprived’ nations, India included. US concerns to world peace, nuclear proliferation and weaponisation were indeed noteworthy, SPECIALLY WHEN VIEWED IN THE CONTEXT THAT SUCH UTOPIAN THOUGHTS EMANATE ONLY WHEN MAILNAD USA IS THREATENED. It appears that the US representative either did not consult history books or suffered from a bout of amnesia while speaking to the emergency Security Council session on 4th September, 2017.
In any case Americans have an extremely poor record of remembering Historical facts. For instance before resorting to the most undesirable holocaust in the human history in August 1945 the Allied forces led by USA had bombed Tokyo and neighbourhood on 24th March, 1945, causing more casualties than Hiroshima and Nagasaki. On 3rd April, 1945 the Japanese government had communicated to USA and Britain that ‘they were ready for an honourable surrender’, a little stated fact of history by the so called ‘Defenders of Peace’ the ‘Whites’.
Reason for non-acceptance of Japanese surrender was progress of PROJECT MANHATTAN. United States had nearly perfected the nuclear weapon technology, both by the enriched Uranium and plutonium route. They needed an excuse to try out the weapon of mass destruction. On the pretext of saving lives of millions of allied soldiers, who would have died in fighting the already decimated Axis forces, the Defenders of Peace took the decision to drop the first nuclear weapon over Hiroshima on 6th August, 1945. Was there a need to drop the second bomb at Nagasaki? Not really. But for Defenders of Peace (The only Rogue Nation of the world) the USA it was important because they wanted to test the nuclear weapon developed by ‘Plutonium’ route. Hence the second target, the city of KOKURA was chosen to bear the brunt of ‘FATMAN’ on 9th August, 1945. Residents of KOKURA did not suffer the fate because of clouds over the city. Alternate target NAGASAKI was destroyed.
In the eyes of Americans all nations testing nukes after 1st January, 1967 are ‘ROGUE’ nations. It is a different matter that no other nation in the world has ever used a nuke against their adversary except the USA.
In any case the historical fact that is being discussed is barely 70 years old. How is it that the Americans do not remember their actions of drawing an east west line on the 38th parallel after Korean war creating the so-called ‘Pariah State’.
What does North Korea want from these Defenders of Peace? Broadly there are three North Korean requirements; Firstly American will not resort to help/create situations for a regime change in North Korea, Secondly, a ‘ Non aggression/NO WAR PACT’ with the USA and Thirdly, removal of numerous sanctions imposed over a period of time. Are the demands by DPRK establishment a threat to international peace?
During the six nation meet involving China, USA, Japan, Vietnam and both Korean nations in 2012, North Korea had agreed to most of the terms laid down including dismantling some of their nuclear facilities. That the events took a diametrically opposite route is entirely due to US presence and continued weapon induction in South Korea. The latest being induction of THAAD in South Korea to which China and Russia too have reacted adversely. With the proverbial ‘stiff upper lip’ it can be safely stated that if THAAD capability were genuine, Israel would have opted for THAAD rather than their own IRON DOME.
A little digression at this stage would be in order to move from politicking to weapon capability and performance. I am talking about effectiveness and capability of much hyped weapon system called THAAD. A fundamental question would highlight the ‘Operational Capability’ of much touted THAAD. If the US believes that THAAD is indeed capable of intercepting and destroying virtually all incoming missiles, why should an unproven ballistic missile of North Korea worry USA? Answer is simple; all 16 intercepts of the target ballistic missiles starting from STAR WARS programme till date, including THAAD, have been conducted under highly controlled conditions. In each case the date of launch, window of launch and place of origin of the target missile was known to the interceptor missile location. Only variable was the missile trajectory. USA and all other nations developing the so called ballistic missile defence system know it fully well that in actual case the scenario will be different, hence the worry. THAAD or ‘NO THAAD’ if North Korea decides to target mainland USA or Guam or Japan, protection is not guaranteed.
US actions subsequent to Chinese aggression in South China Sea have created an instability in the region not seen/experienced after Vietnam war. North Korea has been provided patronage by China. Even recent Chinese assertions are clear evidence of Chinese effort to diffuse the situation, notwithstanding the tweets by President Trump of USA. Latest fiat issued by the United States that no country in the world should have any business dealings with North Korea is yet another example of projecting US hegemony over other nations. During the peak of cold war US philosophy was ‘Those who are not with us are against us’, specifically aimed at India, a proponent of non alignment.
North Korean affection towards Pakistan resulted in supply of NODONG series missiles (christened Ghauri by Pakistan). Pakistan ballistic missiles have only eastward direction of launch. Without doubt we must support peace efforts all over the world but not at the cost of our own national interests. We have absolutely no reason to alienate a nation merely because America wants us to do so. Extremely unstable situation in Korean peninsula is due to total failure of US diplomacy in that region. Iran may follow suit sooner than later.
Our diplomats must be conscious of the past affiliation between Pakistan and North Korea. North Korean missile technology will be of immense help to Pakistan. A proven and indigenously built launch vehicle of sufficient range still eludes Pakistan. Our support to US led anti-North Korea stand might be detrimental to our national interests. If Ms Nikki Haley can state that USA would like to assist in resolving J&K issue between Pakistan and India, perhaps we could take the lead and try to douse the fire between North Korea and USA. Almost certainly our initiative would be welcomed by China and Russia on one hand and on the other persuade North Korea for stopping sale of launch vehicles to Pakistan.
No nuclear discussion is complete without mentioning nuclear non proliferation. But when USA talks about non proliferation, it sounds hollow. USA is the first country to develop nukes; USA is the first and ONLY country of the world to have used a nuclear weapon twice essentially to prove the efficacy of Project Manhattan. Operationally there was no need to drop the nukes over Japan in August, 1945.
USA, therefore, is the only country of the world, which can be held responsible and accountable for worldwide proliferation of nuclear weapons. Bay of Pigs crisis during JFK presidency was the closest that USA faced the threat of a nuke strike from then USSR. Wheel has indeed turned full circle and USA once again faces a nuke threat but from the so called ‘THIRD WORLD’ country and knows fully well that USA cannot protect herself against a North Korean nuclear tipped missile in spite of THAAD.
During the past seven months (February to August 2017) Kim Jong Un has ordered over a dozen launches of ballistic missiles of various ranges and two nuclear tests. The young leader has categorically and unequivocally asserted his resolve to strike TARGETS not only in the Korean peninsula but also mainland USA. On the contrary US capability to protect even Seoul is questionable. Long range North Korean artillery can and will obliterate Seoul in the event of an all out war.
A pre-emptive strike by USA on North Korean nuke facilities is unlikely to succeed in totality due to the fact that North Korea has made development of nuclear weapons and launch vehicles a national aspiration. She will not hesitate to deliver a nuke if pushed against the wall as has been amply demonstrated by launch of an ICBM. Yet another option with the US is to ‘DO NOTHING’. A peep into the history will show that Pakistan went nuclear; US did nothing. So did India and Israel. US merely condemned the tests. If that is the truth why can’t DPRK regime go nuclear?
North Korean regime has been and continues to be governed by eccentric leader. In view of the unpredictable nature of Kim Jong Un, a senior American bureaucrat Ernest Moniz, energy secretary in Obama administration has advocated a persuasive rather than confrontationist approach by the USA to firstly reduce the ‘heat’ and secondly, to diffuse the situation for a long term stability. Mr Moniz was a key member of the team that negotiated US-Iran nuclear deal.
Preemptive options are not limited to merely strikes on nuke facilities. Regimes can be overturned. Kim Jong Un is known to be a reckless driver, who loves his drinks but removal of Kim Jong Un from the scene might result in greater chaos and lead to uncontrollable violence. Associated with this is the risk of nuclear ‘button’ falling into the wrong hands. It can be safely concluded that sanctions and US style diplomacy is unlikely to stop the nuclear programme of DPRK regime. Option of change of regime might appear to be more attractive.
It is, therefore, quite evident that sanctions and more sanctions against the DPRK regime is unlikely to resolve the issue. As of now DPRK regime listens to China only. But in the fast changing international scenario, Indian intervention to diffuse the crisis cannot be ruled out in spite of the fact that even Indian government has taken measures against DPRK regime by reducing trade volume etc at the behest of USA.
Indo-Chinese bonhomie at the recently concluded BRICS summit augurs well not only for both Asian giants but also for the international community. We have returned virtually from the brink after the Doklam stand off. In international arena opportunities do not arise every other day.
Here is an opportunity for India to volunteer and seize the initiative to attempt to diffuse the situation by sending a senior minister to meet Kim Jong Un or his representative. In my view Gen VK Singh, Minister of state for external affairs would be an ideal choice. In the worst case scenario the friendly overture will be met with a cold stare.
But if it succeeds, DPRK missiles of larger range may not find their way into Pakistan arsenal.
Containing North Korea will have a price but that would be a ‘million’ times lesser than allowing North Korea to push the nuclear button.