by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 46, No. 3, Sha'ban, 1438)
Donald Trump and his minions are threatening the world with nuclear weapons while they accuse North Korean leaders of being ‘irrational’!
Nuclear weapons are indescribably destructive and can kill and maim millions of people in a single explosion. They are not toys to be played with but in the grubby hands of Donald Trump, they are treated as such. While the man is obsessed with the size of his hands, the world worries about the size of his brain.
He has dispatched what he calls a “nuclear-armed armada” to the Korean Peninsula and is threatening to unleash nuclear weapons on North Korea if the latter were to carry out another underground nuclear test. Trump called it “very powerful ships,” “very powerful submarines” armed with nuclear weapons.
On April 17, US Vice President Mike Pence on a visit to Seoul, South Korea, renewed the threat against the North. Immediately, the latter’s deputy ambassador at the United Nations, Kim In Ryong called a press conference. Responding to Pence’s threat issued from the demilitarized zone between the North and South, the North Korean representative warned of a nuclear war.
While Pence warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the United States “or the strength of our military forces,” a threat he repeated two days latter while addressing sailors aboard the aircraft carrier, Ronald Reagan docked in Japan, Deputy ambassador Kim condemned the US naval buildup in the waters off the Korean Peninsula, plus the US missile attacks on Syria. He said, “It has created a dangerous situation in which thermonuclear war may break out at any moment on the peninsula and poses a serious threat to world peace and security.”
The rhetorical volleys were lobbed in the aftermath of both the Syrian missile strikes as well as the US’ use of the largest non-nuclear bomb (10,000 kg) in its arsenal on Archin in eastern Afghanistan on April 13. The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (dubbed the “Mother of All Bombs” or MOAB) was dropped on a mountain where ISIS terrorists were allegedly hiding in caves. Its political message, however, was directed at North Korea and any other country the US perceives as challenging its hegemonic ambitions. This is how the leaders in Pyongyang interpreted it and, therefore, responded accordingly.
American belligerence is mindboggling. North Korea’s underground nuclear test is considered a “threat” to world peace and interpreted as a violation of the UN Security Council resolution but Washington’s allocating more than $1 trillion to upgrade its already massive nuclear arsenal, also in violation of Security Council resolutions as well as its Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligations, are conveniently ignored.
There was something theatrical about Trump’s and his vice president’s threats against North Korea. On April 18, the New York Times quoting the US Navy reported the battle group USS Carl Vinson, which was supposedly sent to the North Korean coast, was in fact 3,000 miles away and sailing in the opposite direction toward Australia. The aircraft carrier and its accompanying ships are scheduled to take part in exercises with the Australian navy, we were told. So what did Trump and Pence mean by their threats against Pyongyang? Was the Times’ story deliberately planted to provide the US a face-saving climbdown?
The US maintains 20,000 troops on the Korean Peninsula and has a string of military bases in the region. It has announced it will increase this number. These are clearly aimed at trying to intimidate Pyongyang and will further destabilize an already volatile region. If the North Korean leaders are alarmed, they have reason to be. The Washington warlords with itchy fingers on the trigger that has caused so much havoc globally have the gall to accuse the North Koreans of behaving irrationally. It is the US that is behaving totally irrationally.
When threats and the assembling of a huge nuclear armada failed to intimidate the North, the Washington cowboys were forced to climb down from their high horse. They have been huffing and puffing, like the big bad wolf, but have failed to bring down the North Korean house. A day before Pence lobbed his rhetorical volley at the North saying “all options are on the table,” Trump’s National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster said (April 16) that the US, its Western and Pacific allies (primarily Japan), and China were working together on a range of responses to North Korea.
McMaster called for an international consensus to act indicating Trump was not considering military action for now. So what did Pence’s “all options on the table” mean? According to a Reuters report a few days earlier citing Trump regime officials, Washington was focusing its North Korea strategy on tougher economic sanctions, possibly including an oil embargo, a global ban on its airline, and intercepting cargo ships. It would also include punishing Chinese banks doing business with Pyongyang. The latter may be a non-starter since without Chinese help and cooperation the Washington warlords will not be able to tame the North Korean dragon.
If Trump thought he could browbeat the North Koreans into submission, he needs to learn the political trade much better. North Koreans are not intimidated by threats. In fact, they have a long history of defying US threats, even before they acquired nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. While denouncing US Navy deployment as “reckless,” Pyongyang warned it can respond to “provocateurs” and defend itself with the “powerful force of arms.” Trump had better believe this. Taking on the North Koreans is neither a business deal nor a game of golf.
Pyongyang warned there would be “catastrophic consequences” to Washington’s “outrageous actions.” “The DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] is ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US,” warned North Korea’s UN ambassador.
Meanwhile China moved 150,000 troops to its border to deal with possible North Korean refugees amid rising tensions. The Russians have also rushed troops, missiles, and other military equipment to their eastern border close to North Korea. Both China and Japan have called for a negotiated settlement to the crisis. The Washington warlords have dismissed this but given the failure of their threats to intimidate the North, they may perhaps come to their senses.
The question that must be asked is: why is Trump acting in such an irrational manner? There are two possible answers. One is that Trump is by nature a bully. He tries to intimidate opponents by issuing threats. This was apparent during his run for the Republican Party nomination as well as during the presidential campaign. He would overwhelm opponents with a relentless barrage of accusations, keeping them off balance. He seems to be using similar tactics in international affairs, although with much less success.
The second is America’s propensity to act totally irrationally, projecting the image of a mad superpower, that nobody must cross paths with otherwise unspecified grave consequences would follow. The missile strikes against Syria, dropping of the GBU-43/B on Afghanistan, and threats against Russia and North Korea are all part of this second strategy. But the North Koreans are not easily intimidated. In January 1968, they had captured the US spy ship Pueblo with 83 crewmembers when it illegally entered North Korean waters. The American spies were held for 11 months. The spy ship is still held by the North Koreans and serves as a floating museum today!
The days of the mad superpower, even one led by a self-confessed bully, however, are over. The danger is that such threats and intimidation tactics may get out of hand and someone may react equally irrationally plunging the world into nuclear war.
North Korea and the US under Trump appear to be heading in that dangerous direction.