How they see us: Pyongyang would avenge ‘bloody nose’
The White House is beating the drums of war ever louder, said Yu Yong-weon and Jun Hyun-suk in the Chosun Ilbo (South Korea). The latest sign that U.S. President Donald Trump wants a military solution to his standoff with North Korea came last week, when his administration abruptly withdrew the nomination of Victor Cha to be U.S. ambassador to South Korea. What had Cha—a “prominent Korea-policy wonk” and former official in the George W. Bush administration—done wrong? He’d dared to speak out against White House plans to launch a limited, preemptive strike against North Korea, giving dictator Kim Jong Un a “bloody nose.” Hawkish U.S. officials claim that a bombing raid on the North’s Yongbyon nuclear reactor site, its nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, or its submarine bases would frighten Kim into abandoning his nuclear weapons program. But what if Kim hits back? North Korea can lob up to 15,000 artillery rounds an hour at Seoul, including shells loaded with chemical and incendiary weapons, and it could devastate our infrastructure with a cyberattack. Cha was right to warn against such a foolish gamble.
If North Korea gets a bloody nose, we will retaliate by breaking America’s spine, said the Rodong Sinmun (North Korea) in an editorial. “The short history of the U.S. would end forever” if Trump were to harm “even a single blade of grass on this land.” Does “dolt-like” Trump dare to slander this ancient land, accusing us of human rights abuses? He “can not deodorize the nasty smell from his dirty body, riddled with frauds, sexual abuses, and all other crimes.” If the U.S. wants to keep the peace, it will quickly lock its leader away “in a hospital for psychopaths.”
North Koreans don’t take insults well, said The Hankyoreh (South Korea), and they would take a military strike even worse. The “arrogant and rash” officials in the Trump administration who argue for an attack are a mix of hawks and security neophytes. Their “understanding of the Korean Peninsula or North Korea is close to zero.” They calculate that the risk of endangering the lives of 230,000 Americans in South Korea is worth it to protect the safety of the continental U.S. Appallingly, “the fates of 50 million South Koreans don’t even warrant a mention.” And we can’t rule out that Trump, under pressure at home from the Russia investigation, might use a war, any war, to rally Americans around him ahead of the midterm elections.
There’s a narrow window of opportunity to stop the U.S. “from starting another foolish conflict,” said Se-Woong Koo in Qatar’s AlJazeera.com. Seoul and Pyongyang have made diplomatic progress in recent weeks, holding several rounds of talks that led Kim to agree to send athletes and officials to this month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea. Trump has said that he wants to see whether “something good” can come out of the Olympics. But “after the games, all bets are off.” ■