14 April 2017

The North Korea crisis

There are few scenarios more disquieting than a showdown between two mentally-erratic rulers with nuclear weapons in the middle of one of the world's most densely-populated and economically-important regions.  Yet that's the scenario which seems to be developing in East Asia.

In brief, the North Korean regime, showing its usual bluster, is apparently about to conduct another nuclear or missile test.  Trump has diverted the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier group toward the region and warned that the US will not tolerate such a provocation.  The North Korean regime has a history of ignoring foreign pressure to dial back its saber-rattling, and Trump has a history of taking aggressive actions without thought to, or even understanding of, possible consequences.  But if the test goes ahead and Trump carries out some kind of military action against North Korea, the consequences could be enormous indeed.

The regime has repeatedly threatened that, if attacked, it would retaliate against our allies Japan and South Korea:
The map illustrates two salient points.  First, Seoul, the South Korean capital, is very close to the DMZ (border between the two Korean states).  In fact, it's within artillery range.  The North has a formidable array of weaponry deployed along the border.  The Seoul metro area has over 25 million people, about half of South Korea's total population.  A Northern attack on a city of this size would cause horrific casualties and destruction.

Second, Japan, or a large part of it, is within range of even the primitive missiles the North possesses (it's estimated to have about 350 missiles which could theoretically reach Japanese territory).  North Korea, of course, has atomic bombs -- only a few, low-yield and unreliable by modern standards, and we don't even know for sure whether the North can deliver them by missile -- but even one or two successfully delivered and detonated could inflict devastation comparable to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

In short, an impulsive action by Trump in this case would be risking the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in countries which are allies of ours.  Needless to say, attacking Seoul or Japan would mean massive US retaliation -- but we can't count on that to deter the North Korean regime from carrying out such actions.  Nobody knows whether the regime is really as crazy and delusional as it appears to be, or even who is actually in charge (some believe the military holds the real power, with Kim Jong-un being merely a figurehead).  The risk of the nightmare scenario happening is unquantifiable, but real.

And if it did happen, the consequences would be enormous.  South Koreans and Japanese would rightly blame the US for provoking the disaster.  It could even lead to a permanent breach.  Remember how the murder of 3,000 Americans on September 11 affected the US -- then consider the impact on South Korea and Japan of ten to a hundred times as many deaths.

South Korea and Japan are among the most technologically advanced countries on Earth -- more advanced than the US in some areas.  Japan has a population almost equal to Russia (127 million vs. 143 million) and the world's third-largest economy.  It's a potential superpower -- more so, really, than China or India.  If Japan turned against the US and decided that its future security required complete political and military independence, the disruptive effect on the world order as we've known it since 1945 would be greater than that of almost any other imaginable event.

Maybe Trump will restrain himself.  China has been trying to talk sense to him, and one can hope that Defense Secretary James Mattis (one of Trump's few really qualified appointments), while talking tough to North Korea, is also bringing his boss up to speed on the realities of the situation.  It would have helped if the MSM had been less gaga in their coverage of Trump's missile attack in Syria and MOAB bombing in Afghanistan -- the man seems obsessed with his image in the media.  But make no mistake -- this is by far the most dangerous situation to arise since Trump took office.


Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Thanx for your points on this one ... I been keeping my eyes on this, yeah guy, Seoul is a big town and big business players, what it would really impact as well hard, would be the global markets ... this isnt an area to play pop- shots in, and I bet Slim Kim (Jong-un) knows this, this kid is a hot head and has a chip on his shoulder about this western imperialism shit too! (personally, I think he is more ready for action than Trump/ Tweety, and excited to have to challenge a guy like Tweety). I couldnt help busting out laughing when I first started reading this posting, when you described it "showdown between 2 mentally erratic dudes with nukes", heh, heh, heh, heh, heh {:-) But, I figure China will jump in and crack down on NK, I assume Trump is banking on that too, however, Tweety also said, that if China dont straighten things up, he (US/ Trump) will. I also heard something in the news the other day ... where I think it was Trump(?) that tweeted some shit, calling Slim- Kim a "fat kid" talking noise or whatever ... and Slim got the redass, and threatened to attack us for it! (BTW, there is a popular musician called "Fatboy Slim" too {:-) Slim is under so much pressure too, as far as being shut out of so much globally and the economy is in the pits in NK ... if China wasnt their buddy, they wouldnt have jack to fight for (IMO). I was watching this YouTube vid this guy put up a couple years back, where he spent a couple weeks in NK, he was able to film alot in Pyongyang, I was so blown away by it though ... talk about some hardcore communism! ... I mean, this place made China look like Disneyland man! They had such a "lack" of advertising (except for nationalist ad's), that it would actually make me "miss" saturation of corporate advertising here in America ... Imagine that ... these SOB's had sirens go off around the city, to let people know when to go to work and break, like a damn prison! I had an uncle that was military on the DMZ years back (he was US Navy).

14 April, 2017 06:29  
Blogger One Fly said...

Yes all that!

"this is by far the most dangerous situation to arise since Trump took office."

What is equally as bad Trumpers will agree with what he does even with very bad results.

14 April, 2017 07:25  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

Correction, my mistake, it was not Trump tweeting about Slim Kim being a fat kid, it was Senator McCain on the news ... shame on me for thinking it was Tweety, eh? {:-)

14 April, 2017 18:15  
Blogger W. Hackwhacker said...

Two man-babies used to getting their way, with limited (to say the least) knowledge of the other, where saving face and deflecting blame is paramount to survival, acting out with massive firepower at their disposal. Yeah, what could possibly go wrong?

15 April, 2017 08:40  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

The military may be in charge and not the civilian CiC. Earlier today I heard an interviewer ask Trump if he authorized the dropping of the MOAB, and he answered "Everybody knows exactly what happened." A rather odd answer. But then he said he "authorized my military." Then he denigrated Mr. Obama's 8 years.

What's curious is that during his campaign, Trump bellowed about what a disaster the military was. He's been in office 3 months, and he just bragged about the tremendous job the military is doing and that we have the greatest military in the world and he's so damn proud of it.
Three months is hardly enough time to take a military force that's a "disaster" to one that is the greatest in the world.

The b.s. continues...

15 April, 2017 09:02  
Blogger Kevin Robbins said...

There's an interesting post at Esquire by Robert Bateman who feels that at least we're not there with sufficient force to attack North Korea. "Only" to shoot down missiles that Kim may fire off. The good news being provocation-wise that's more mellow than bombing Pyongyang.

You don't suppose the Koreans or Japanese would ever tell us to take our troops home do you? Both societies have tolerated some heinous crimes.

We're closing in on surviving the first 100 days anyway. I'm knocking furiously on wood while trying that.

15 April, 2017 12:12  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Ranch: The impact on global markets would be huge. Besides Seoul, Tokyo is one of the big three financial centers (with London and New York). Japan and South Korea are both critical to the world economy.

Trump and Kim are both mentally erratic. The only real question is which one has worse hair.

One: They have no idea of the possible impact. They probably think devastation of that part of the world won't affect us, even as they drive their Toyotas and Hyundais and watch their Sony TVs and DVD players.

Hackwhacker: And both pretty ignorant of how the real world works. It's very scary.

Shaw: Frankly I hope the military has plenty of say in things on both sides. They have a better grasp of reality than the two "fat kid" "man-boys" in charge.

Kevin: Thanks for that link -- I hope he's right.

I've wondered for some time if Trump's belligerence would eventually make Japan (and maybe South Korea) decide that the US alliance carries more risk than the benefits are worth, and that they'd be better off going it alone. Again, though, Japan with fully independent defense capability (meaning a large nuclear arsenal, meaning they become a superpower) would be highly disruptive to the present global system.

15 April, 2017 16:03  
Anonymous NickM said...

Excellent analysis Infidel.

Some points...

These "Far away countries of which we know little" aren't in this day and age are they? I speak as a UK citizen who has a Samsung TV, a Lenovo Thinkpad and my brother has a long-term girlfriend from Tokyo.

I would be much happier if we faced this situation with Hillary (or frankly almost anyone else) in the Oval Office. My cat is better suited.

What really worries me is this gung-ho stuff from Trump. You are very right about the thing that more than anything worries me... We don't know to what extent Trump has spoken to Soeul or Tokyo and they are the ones on the immediate hook for this. And I have flown a (simulated) F-86. I read up on the background and I have seen the memorial to the Korean War in DC. There are a an awful ot of names on it.

20 April, 2017 02:42  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Nick: Countries like Japan and South Korea are no longer so far away economically or culturally, but there are still plenty of people who "know little" of them. This unfortunately includes Trump, who seems to specialize in not knowing things. The sheer ignorance of so many people in the US about the outside world amazes me again and again. Not all, but many.

At least when Trump "sends a gunboat" he sends it to the wrong place (Australia, North Korea, whatever, anybody could get them mixed up). I hope it will at least allow more time for people of sense to get through to him.

20 April, 2017 05:34  

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