Less than 1 week after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson praised North Korea for showing “restraint” in its weapons program, the hermit kingdom fired a series of 3 short-range ballistic missiles – deliberately launched in the midst of the U.S. and South Korea’s annual military exercises. At first, everyone rejoiced and laughed at fat boy Kim.
That’s because the U.S. military (initially) claimed that all the 3 missiles have either failed in flight or exploded almost immediately. Then they modified their statement – that while the second missile have blown up almost immediately at launch, the first and third missiles flew “approximately 250 kilometres in a north-eastern direction”, raising doubts about integrity of the U.S. assessment.
The best part was the missiles were unleashed after Trump bragged at a rally in celebration of himself in Phoenix – “You see what’s going on in North Korea … Kim Jong-un, I respect the fact that I believe he is starting to respect us.” He talked as if he had resolved and won the war against Dictator Kim with his fancy weapon – “fire and fury” and “locked and loaded” tweets.
But the party didn’t end there. Early Tuesday morning, Mr. Kim provocatively flew another missile, the fourth missile he fired in four days. This round, nobody laughed at fat boy Kim. That’s because North Korea lobbed the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile over Japan – the first ballistic missile test to “pass over Japan” on a high-altitude trajectory in such provocative style.
Obviously, badass Kim Jong-un was “very satisfied with the performance of the missile.” Launched from a location near the capital of Pyongyang, it splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, east of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Reaching an altitude of 342 miles (550 kilometres), the missile flew for a distance of 1,678 miles (2,700 kilometres) within 15-minute.
The message Kim sends to Trump is very clear. Almost the entire homeland of Japan is within strike, including U.S. military bases there. As if the North Korea wasn’t done having enough fun humiliating the U.S. military power, Kim Jong-un gives Donald Trump the middle finger when the hermit kingdom’s news media threatened to bury the entirety of the U.S. under water.
Trump must have had thought that by scaling down American troops participating in the U.S.-South Korea military exercises – known as Ulchi-Freedom Guardian – to 17,500 troops from last year’s 25,000 (a 30% reduction), he could pacify and control the rogue nation. Once again, both the U.S. president and secretary of state have proven to be not ready for the world stage.
Donald Trump scrambles back to his SOP (standard operating procedure) manuals and again, tell all and sundry that “all options are on the table”, the same rhetoric he has used before. The toothless U.N. Security Council, as predicted, condemned North Korea’s latest action as an “outrageous” threat and demanded that Pyongyang not launch any more missiles.
Like a broken record, the 15-member Security Council also urges the hermit kingdom to abandon all its nuclear weapons and programmes. However, the U.S.-drafted statement does not threaten new sanctions on North Korea, not that there is any more threats left after this month’s economic sanctions on the kingdom, which slashes US$1 billion of annual export revenue.
North Korea has been under U.N. sanctions since 2006 over its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. And China has been consistently telling the U.S. that economic sanctions would not bring North Korea to its knees. China and Russia have pointed out – repetitively – that the US-South Korea joint military drills on the peninsula should be stopped before a peaceful solution can be started.
Of course, it’s impossible for the U.S. to stop its military games on the Peninsula Korea as it would be interpreted as a humiliating defeat. The latest test by the notorious Kim Jong-un puts the United States and its allies (South Korea and Japan) in a difficult and tricky spot, not to mention they have ran out of optionsto pressure North Korea.
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.”
That interview with “The American Prospect” published on August 16, just 2 days before Mr. Bannon was fired, pretty much let out the secret as to why Kim Jong-un is untouchable. Sure, Trump can repeat the same trick again – sending more military hardware to the Korean Peninsula, including stealth fighters, B-1B and B-52 bombers, as well as warships such as U.S. Navy destroyers and submarines.
But hadn’t Trump sent as many as 3 aircraft carriers – USS Carl Vinson, USS Ronald Reagan and USS Nimitz – to the Korean Peninsula not many moons ago, only to withdraw them without any action, therefore, fails to intimidate Kim? In fact, Mr. has been crossing one red line after another drawn by Mr. Trump that the North Korean dictator has started getting bored with the game.
When Trump declared that North Korea “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” if it makes “more threats,” almost immediately Kim raised his bets by declaring that Guam would be attacked. Nothing happened and the U.S. president was caught bluffing. Then, Trump decided to draw another red line, declaring that – “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded.”
Kim Jong-un has ignored that too, dealing an embarrassing blow to Donald Trump’s self-fulfilling fantasy about North Korea’s respect for him. It appears that Mr. Kim (perhaps quietly endorsed by Beijing) is testing and perfecting North Korean ballistic missiles capability using Japan as the target practice. Trump is expected to pressure China to fix the North Korea problem.
But if Steve Bannon’s revelation is any indicator, where he unleashed the secret that the U.S. is losing the economic race against China, there’s little President Trump can do to pressure the Chinese. Instead of condemning North Korea after the latest provocative missile test, Beijing is actually pushing for Seoul to remove its THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) system.
– Finance Twitter