Just a day after North Korea said it conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, South Korea says Pyongyang is preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The launch could be as soon as this Saturday – September 9 – when the hermit kingdom celebrates its founding day. Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test on the same day last year.
On Sunday, the rogue nation conducted its biggest nuclear test, an explosive 120 kilotons which Kim Jong-un declared a “perfect success”. President Trump ran out of words in his rhetoric war against Dictator Kim. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warns of “massive military response” but was kind enough to say America is not looking to the total annihilation of North Korea.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, also ran out of warnings to North Korea, repeated her “enough is enough” rhetoric and says Kim is“begging for war”. By now, after a perfect success testing of hydrogen bomb, only a fool would believe that the U.S. would go to war against the rogue nation. If the U.S. dared not bomb Kim yesterday, it would not do so tomorrow.
Trump’s (former) White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, had exposed that – “There’s no military solution (to North Korea’s nuclear threats), forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that 10 million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here. They got us.”
The revelation by Mr. Bannon, which was a “secret”, pretty much explains why Kim has been calling Trump bluff – again and again. Even if Commander-in-Chief Trump wanted to send a couple of dozens of Tomahawks into North Korea bombing some deserted empty airfields just for propaganda sake, the same way he did to Syria, he can’t. China won’t allow it.
Beijing has declared – “China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten U.S. soil first and the U.S. retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the U.S. and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so.”
This might sound boring but there won’t be any Nuclear War I, Korean War II or World War III. Neither Trump nor Kim would start a war. But there would be tons of provocations between Trump administration and Kim regime. Why waste time on empty rhetoric if everyone is too chicken to press the button then? Ahh, tons of money could be made from this war of words, mind you.
The simple solution to the Korean conflict is to talk but Trump deliberately refuses to do so. Taking a page from his visit to Saudi Arabia where Trump poured fuel into flame of rivalry between Saudi and Qatar, the U.S. president hopes to do the same between the North and South Korea. Yes, it’s all about business – the arms or weapons sale – that has gotten Trump fired up against Kim.
Trump was generously gifted with a military sales deal of about US$110 billion – effective immediately – plus another US$350 billion over the next 10 years when he visited Saudi Arabia. The weapon sales also included a gold medal being thrown in as a free gift for Trump by King Salman. It has been Trump’s most fruitful business-cum-vacation trip to the Middle East.
But Saudi wasn’t the only Arab being played by America. Despite being mocked and accused of sponsoring terrorism, Qatar happily authorized the purchase of over US$21 billion worth of U.S. weapons. A deal – US$12 billion for 36 F-15QA fighter jets – was fast-forwarded and signed when Qatar’s Defence Minister met with U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis thereafter.
Trump has indeed done an excellent job spooking ally South Korea into believing that the badass Kim could strike anytime soon. Unlike previous U.S. presidents, President Trump couldn’t care less about allies such as South Korea and Japan. He has no interest, not that he has any sexy military options on the table, in engaging a full-scale war with North Korea.
There’s a huge difference between actually going to war and selling weapons because there could be a war. A war would require funding from U.S. taxpayers. But crying wolf – or rather crying war – would force South Korea to buy new weapons – lots of them. Two days ago, Donald Trump agreed to sell South Korea billions of dollars in U.S. arms amid the standoff over North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests.
According to an analysis by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States sold arms worth nearly US$5 billion (S$6.78 billion) to South Korea between 2010 and 2016. South Korea was the 4th biggest buyer of US arms in that period, behind Saudi Arabia, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.).
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, obviously blinked in the poker game, also requested a review on a joint treaty which places a cap on the development of its ballistic missiles, to which President Trump gladly approved. The South wants to increase the strike distance and force of weapons to boost its defencesagainst the North.
Under a bilateral treaty revised in 2012, South Korean ballistic missiles is limited to range of 800 km (500 miles) and payload weight of 500 kg (1,100 pounds). Essentially, this means there will be more lucrative business deals for the U.S. defence contractors. Unlike previous U.S. presidents, Trump doesn’t believe Washington is a charity house.
President Trump famously wanted South Korea to foot the bill for a US$1 billion U.S. missile defense system – the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system – in April this year. There was a moment of tension between the U.S. and South Korea because the Koreans thought the defense system was supposed to be “free of charge”.
South Korea isn’t the only nation dragged into arms purchase in the Korean conflicts. Japan, the traditional enemy of both Korea and China since the World War II, saw an ICBM being lobbed over the nation. In fact, the Chinese haven’t fully forgotten, let alone forgiven the brutality of Imperial Japanese Army and were rejoicing whenever Kim Jong-un threatens the Japanese.
Therefore, it’s not hard to understand why the Japanese government is drawing up plans to evacuate its citizens from South Korea in the event of a war, when it’s business as usual in the South with only a few Koreans believe a war could break out. Besides committed to buying U.S.-made advanced F-35 fighter planes, Japan is shopping for more land-based missile defence system.
Over the last 10 years, Japan has imported over US$4 billion in arms, 93% of which came from the United States. That’s a huge business for U.S. defence contractor considering Japan’s military is strictly limited to defensive role only, thanks to its post-World War II Constitution renounces war. Thanks to Kim Jong-un, Japan politicians are now considering new types of weapons.
Japanese politicians are toying with the idea of acquiring the means to launch pre-emptive military strikes – attacks that could destroy North Korean missiles on the ground before they are fired at Japan. Again, this means new business to U.S. defence contractors. Such weapons include long-range cruise missiles, air-to-ground missiles and refuelling aircraft that extend the range of fighter jets.
Depending on how you look at it, Japan would be able to attack other nations – under the pretext of defending itself – if the Yankees allow the Japanese to do so. There’s no guarantee that the Japanese would use the long-range missiles against the North Korea only. It could open the floodgate to the rising of a similar Imperial Japanese Army in 1940s.
But does Trump care about past history? Absolutely not because not only the U.S. president is business-minded, he also does not believe the U.S. should defend allies at the expenses of U.S. money, unless the allies pay for such services. He even indicated that Japan and South Korea might need to obtain their own nuclear arsenal to protect themselves from North Korea and China.