U.S. mulls military action against North Korea
The Pentagon warned this week that it was weighing several military options in response to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, amid escalating tensions between the Trump administration and Kim Jong Un’s regime. North Korea fired a second ballistic missile over Japan last week, prompting President Trump to threaten to “totally destroy” the rogue state, during an address to the United Nations. As the U.S. flew bombers and stealth jets over the Korean Peninsula in a show of force, Defense Secretary James Mattis indicated that he was assessing military responses to Pyongyang’s provocations that would not put Seoul’s 10 million residents at risk of a devastating counterattack. Those options reportedly include a naval blockade, a “decapitation” operation to kill Kim, a limited strike on weapons sites, and shooting down North Korean missiles even if they don’t directly threaten the U.S. or its allies. Asked if he was considering “kinetic” action—a euphemism for lethal military force—Mattis replied, “Yes, I don’t want to go into that.”
North Korea’s latest missile test came days after the U.N. Security Council tightened sanctions on Kim’s regime for detonating its sixth nuclear device. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the U.S. had “pretty much exhausted all the things that we could do at the Security Council,” and that if diplomacy doesn’t work, “Gen. Mattis will take care of it.”
What the columnists said
“Traditionally, where diplomacy and sanctions fail, military force begins,” said Steve Ganyard in ABCNews.com. But it would be almost impossible for the Trump administration to “neutralize North Korea’s nuclear threat without starting a world war.” The U.S. doesn’t know where the Hermit Kingdom has hidden all of its weapons, and may not have the capability to shoot down its ballistic missiles without moving ships into North Korean waters. Moreover, it would take a days-long air campaign to destroy the 8,000 cannons and rocket launchers on Pyongyang’s side of the demilitarized zone—giving Kim ample time to retaliate against Seoul and kill hundreds of thousands.
Basically, “it’s time to recognize that North Korea is a nuclear power,” said Fred Kaplan in Slate.com. We’ve failed at forcing Kim to get rid of his nuclear arsenal; the most effective way to proceed now is through deterrence and diplomacy. If Trump opens up talks, maybe he can get the North Korean leader to limit the size of his arsenal, which currently includes 20 nuclear weapons. “Better 20 than 100 or 200.”
What good will talks do? asked Jed Babbin in Spectator.org. Nothing—“no economic sanctions, no diplomatic maneuvers”— will stop Kim from building a nuclear arsenal that guarantees his regime’s survival. His nation is already a pariah state, and the despot doesn’t care if millions of his own people starve. He’s already developed his nuclear and missile forces “to the point that he can threaten about one-third of the continental U.S.” All told, the Rocket Man has “got us where he wants us.”