Reporter Journal / Chen Weihua

US strategy not helping Korean Peninsula situation

By Chen Weihua ( Updated: 2017-09-04 04:12

The situation on the Korean Peninsula has deteriorated after the Democratic People's Republic of Korea proclaimed on Sunday that it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb.

US President Donald Trump, known for using his Twitter weapon of 37 million followers, responded on Sunday morning with several tweets.

"… North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success," said one tweet.

"South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!" said another.

"The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping trade with any country doing business with North Korea," a third tweet said.

There is no doubt that DPRK's action, its sixth nuclear test so far, is a gross violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and has raised serious concerns in the region and worldwide.

But Trump is not helping the situation with tweets blasting DPRK and criticizing South Korea and China.

Trump said last Tuesday that "all options are on the table" after DPRK fired a missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean. He tweeted on Aug 30, saying, "The US has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer."

Trump has put the DPRK issue on his priority list in the last seven months, but people following Trump's conflicting and confusing messages may not be surprised why the situation keeps getting worse.

When Trump said "options are on the table", it is a euphemism for threatening military action. But that is a sheer bluff, even according to his former chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Bannon told The American Prospect in August that "there's no military solution, 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."

Bannon is not alone on this. Many US officials and scholars, including Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, both talked about the likely catastrophic outcome of military action.

South Korea President Moon Jae-in issued a warning last Tuesday after Trump's threat to DPRK. "No one should be allowed to decide on a military action on the Korean Peninsula without South Korea's agreement," Moon said in a nationally televised speech.

Shortly after Trump's tweets on "talking is not the answer", Mattis told reporters that the US is "never out of diplomatic solutions", words that have been viewed as contradicting Trump's. Mattis later said his comments were "widely misinterpreted".

While it was not the first time that Trump's words were challenged by his top aides, the fundamental failure of Trump's strategy is that it pins too much hope on tightening sanctions, a strategy that has proved a failure for decades.

While the DPRK's latest test has posed a serious challenge to President Moon's strategy for inter-Korea dialogue, reconciliation and cooperation, it's wrong for Trump to criticize Moon for his "appeasement", because sanctions have a worse record of failure than talks.

Robert Gallucci, the chief US negotiator with the DPRK during the Clinton administration, mocked the sanctions.

"I have learned over the decades, Americans love sanctions, gives you the feeling we're doing something, even if all the evidence is to the contrary. It still gives us that good feeling," Gallucci said sarcastically in a seminar at George Washington University on Aug 28.

He believes that the US and DPRK were both responsible for the failure of the 1994 framework agreement signed between them.

If Trump is right in saying China "is trying to help but with little success", it is because the US has not heeded China's advice, such as resuming the Six-Party Talks and direct contacts between the US and DPRK and accepting "dual suspension", in which the US and South Korea halt their military drills and DPRK suspends its nuclear tests.

Trump's unilateral threat to cut trade with any country doing business with DPRK is absurd, considering its impact on the global economy.

During his contacts with DPRK officials, Gallucci realized that Pyongyang is fully aware of the cases of Iraq and Libya, where the US pursued regime change after those countries abandoned attempts to acquire nuclear weapons.

That is something the US could focus on to ease the tension on the Korean Peninsula, especially between the US and DPRK.

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