North Korea madness on pause after Kim Jong-un buys himself time

by | Aug 15, 2017

This article originally appeared at Anti-Media. 

 

Hours after Secretary of Defense James Mattis said it would be “game on” if North Korea lobbed missiles at Guam — and following a week of heightened tensions between the United States and the regime of Kim Jong-un — North Korea’s state media appeared to suggest on Tuesday that Kim is willing to delay his launch on the U.S. territory.

The report from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said Kim had “examined the plan for a long time and discussed it with the commanding officers” but that the leader would “watch a little more the foolish and stupid conduct of the Yankees” before giving the go-ahead.

Though using typically bellicose language, North Korea does appear to be saying the U.S. has an opening to de-escalate the situation by cancelling annual 10-days joint military drills with South Korea, scheduled to begin August 21:

“If the planned fire of power demonstration is carried out as the US is going more reckless, it will be the most delightful historic moment when the Hwasong artillerymen will wring the windpipes of the Yankees and point daggers at their necks.”

Indeed, Kim appears to be communicating that a cancellation of those drills would be a significant good faith gesture:

“In order to defuse the tension and prevent dangerous military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, it is necessary for the U.S. to make a proper option first and show it through action.”

That option appears dead on arrival, though, as the U.S. and South Korea have confirmed the drills will continue as scheduled.

On Monday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon that if North Koreans “shoot at the United States” or its territories “then it’s ‘game on’” as far as military conflict. “It could escalate into war very quickly — yes, that’s called war,” Mattis said.

Also on Monday, the most senior official in the U.S. armed forces, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, told South Korean president Moon Jae-in during a 50-minute discussion that plans had been formulated in case of the worst.

“He conveyed America’s readiness to use the full range of military capabilities to defend our allies and the US homeland,” military spokesman Darryn James told reporters following the two men’s private discussion.

Prior to that discussion, however — and despite his assurances to Moon that the U.S. military was indeed “locked and loaded,” as Donald Trump recently asserted — Dunford insisted to reporters that “we’re all looking to get out of this situation without a war.”

Peace was the message put forth by President Moon on Tuesday while speaking at a ceremony marking the 72nd anniversary of South Korea’s liberation from Japanese control.

“The government will prevent a war at all cost,” Moon said. “We must peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue no matter how many ups and downs there are.”

On the issue of diplomacy, Moon vowed his government would “further step up its diplomatic efforts to make sure the international community’s principle of peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue will not waiver.”

And as for any kind of military operation against the North, Moon stated any such action by the United States would have to first be approved by South Korea:

“Military action on the Korean Peninsula can only be decided by the Republic of Korea and no one may decide to take military action without the consent of the Republic of Korea.”

Moon is referring to the 1953 U.S.-South Korean defense treaty, which requires the two nations to consult each other before taking military action when either one is threatened. Hinting at the South’s reluctance over going along with increasing pressure on the Kim regime, Moon says the North’s behavior is leaving few options on the table:

“Should North Korea continue down this path, there will only be isolation and a dark future for the North. We, too, cannot but increase our sanctions and pressure against the North even if we do not wish to.”

James Holbrooks

James Holbrooks

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