orth Korea and the US are once again at loggerheads. At first glance it appears a military confrontation is a distinct possibility.
Most sensible persons would like to believe that a confrontation which could lead to the use of nuclear weapons is unlikely. But both US President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un do not give the impression of being sensible leaders; and this is the catch-22 situation unfolding in the Korean peninsula.
On August 9, North Korea announced that in retaliation for US-backed UN sanctions, it was considering carrying out missile strikes on the US Pacific territory of Guam.
Guam, roughly 2,128 miles from North Korea, is home to both US Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam, housing thousands of American service members and their families.
Pyongyang has, in the past three months, tested more missiles than it did during the past decade, and it is apparent it could achieve its target of producing numbers of nuclear-tipped ICBMs soon.
Hours after the Korean challenge, US President Trump responded with a threat of answering any further North Korean threats with ‘fire and fury’ adding “North Korea best not make any more threats to the US. They will be met with fire and fury the world has never seen.”
President Trump’s warning brings to mind former US President Truman’s warning to Japan after nuclear bombing that country “…to expect a rain of ruin the like of which has never been seen on this earth.”
The more hawkish among the US Republicans argue for an all-out war against N’ Korea to prevent Kim Jong Un from fully developing nuclear tipped weapons which could hit the US mainland.
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham is quoted by the ‘Guardian’ as saying Trump told him, “if thousands die, they’re going to die over there. They are not going to die here.”
North Korea responded to Trump’s warning with a promise to wipe out all strongholds of enemies (Japan and S’ Korea) and the US mainland.
The exchanges mark a sharp rise in the verbal duel between the two countries.
Despite the intemperate language by both sides to the conflict, it is unlikely that armed confrontation will break out.
The circumstances today are different; Japan during World War II did not possess a nuclear deterrent –N’ Korea does.
Secondly, there are nearly 39,000 US troops stationed in Japan and another 23,000 in South Korea.
An all-out attack by the US on N’ Korea would force the North Korean leader to unleash his nuclear arsenal on both Japan and South Korea whom he views as enemies. The backlash to the resultant deaths of tens if not hundreds of thousands of Japanese, Korean, US military and civilian personnel would be uncontrollable.
However, in the aftermath of Trump’s warning of unleashing ‘fire and fury’ on North Korea; in an interview reported by CNN, US Secretary of State Tillerson sought to allay fears of any outbreak of a military confrontation.
Tillerson, while defending Trump’s comments, said there was no sign that the threat level from North Korea had changed and that Americans should “sleep well at night.”
Additionally, there is also the China factor, the US President has to contend with. China does not want a war which would send thousands of Korean refugees across its border. It has already placed over a hundred thousand troops on its Korean border. Nor would China tolerate the presence of US troops at its borders.
North Korea too has subsequently toned down its rhetoric. In the past, N’ Korea had threatened the US mainland and the White House itself with nuclear strikes if the country felt threatened.
Yet, Wednesday’s announcement was that it was considering strike around the US Pacific territory of Guam, choosing a lesser target and not talking of even hitting the US military bases there.
Though it appears that both President Trump and N’ Korean President Kim Jong Un’s war-like statements are merely hot air, the protagonists still adamantly cling to their positions.
While US Secretary of State says the way out is through talks, North Korea has warned it would not negotiate on its weapons programme and had added a condition that the US end its hostility and nuclear threat to N’ Korea.