Eliminating North Korea's nuclear threat to America paramount for Trump Administration

Stan Escudero / Headline SurferBy STAN ESCUDERO
The Guidepost
Headline Surfer®

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Twenty-five years of diplomatic suasion have failed, leaving America with a daunting series of hard choices if North Korea is to be prevented from developing a nuclear warhead and a ballistic missile system which can strike the United States.

For a generation successive American presidents have tried, through negotiations, bribery, and pleas for Chinese and Russian help, to convince the Kim family (grandfather, father and son) ruling in Pyongyang to forego the development of nuclear weapons and a ballistic delivery system. Several agreements were reached but the North Koreans reneged on all of them. Now their murderous totalitarian dictatorship stands on the cusp of acquiring the capacity to attack the United States and our allies with nuclear weapons.

We do not want war but we cannot allow this.

Since the end of the Korean War in 1953 a heavily militarized North Korea has posed an unrelenting vociferous threat to democratic and prosperous South Korea, just across the cease fire line. It is to prevent another invasion of South Korea from the north that we have maintained tens of thousands of troops and equipment in the south for 64 years. And it is Pyongyang’s realization that we would again destroy their invading armed forces and perhaps bring down their state which has driven them to stay their hand for all these years.

But a nuclear-armed North Korea capable of hitting the US directly changes the nature and rules of the game. 

The equation is complicated by the role of China and, to a lesser extent, Russia. Both have an interest in maintaining North Korea as a thorn in America’s side and as a conventional threat to our ally to the south as these lead us to maintain a sometimes controversial and very expensive military presence in South Korea.

Chinese participation in the Korean War made North Korea their military and economic protectorate. They played no role in the governance of North Korea.  It has been enough for Beijing to keep the thorn sharp and to guard against the penetration of their neighbor by economic and political influences from the wildly successful south or, worse from the Chinese point of view, to ensure against the reunification of the Korean Peninsula under a pro-Western government.

But China never wanted a renewal of the Korean War and even less do they want an unpredictable nuclear power on their flank issuing threats of nuclear destruction to the most powerful nation in the world and its regional allies.  Washington hoped that a combination of North Korea’s total economic dependence on China and China’s need to maintain regional peace as it becomes a global military and economic power would cause Beijing to be persuaded to help contain Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions. But until now the Chinese, purposefully or not, have failed to do so.

Enter President Donald Trump.

At dinner with his Chinese counterpart, he made it abundantly plain that American patience has worn thin and that we will do whatever is necessary to prevent North Korea from acquiring the capacity to strike the United States with a nuclear weapon. Apparently impressed with the punctuation of President Trump’s irritation by the destruction of a Syrian airbase, the Chinese took some initial steps to pressure North Korea. Then Beijing seemed to back away, perhaps because the Chinese military is more hawkish than its political leadership. In any case NK leader Kim Yung Un remains defiant.

President Kim launched a number of missiles of various types in recent weeks, none of which could reach the American mainland but all of which could strike South Korea, Japan and perhaps the Philippines. All of them could carry nuclear warheads if North Korea had the ability to miniaturize them. At least one of them could position a nuclear bomb high enough to detonate an electro-magnetic pulse burst over the United States, wiping out our electrical system and devastating our economy for a year or more. 

If we continue to dither, Pyongyang will soon have these capacities. We should expect that they will share them with Iran and possibly make actual nuclear devices available to terrorist groups.

If we wait until Pyongyang has both the weapon and the delivery system the situation in the Far East will have reached an irreducible flashpoint which could explode in a nuclear fireball at any moment.

So what to do?

First, recognize that the solution is not just to prevent Kim from developing a useable nuclear weapons capacity, it is regime change.

Second, recognize that any new regime in Pyongyang must also be acceptable to China.

Third, make certain that the Chinese believe that in the near future, we will take direct action, including massive military action if necessary, to prevent a North Korean nuclear weapons capacity.

Having made these parameters clear to China, agree with Beijing on a series of permanent steps which the Chinese must set irrevocably in motion within a certain period to preclude the weapons capacity and remove the existing regime.

Agree with the Chinese that we will enter negotiations, possibly to include Chinese participation, for assistance to a new and more rational North Korean government but only once its peaceful bona fides have been established and its nuclear development capacity has been dismantled.

In the interim:

Respond to future NK missile launches by shooting them down if we are sure that our anti-missile capacity is reliable enough to do so. 

With Chinese cooperation, impose the most punitive possible economic/financial and political sanctions on North Korea.

Respond directly to NK military provocations against the US or our allies by seizing their commercial vessels or sinking one or more of their warships.

Build up our military presence in South Korea and Japan to make the threat to Pyongyang clear and credible.

Ensure that the Chinese understand that any American military response to a North Korean strike against one of our area allies, whether or not that strike is nuclear, will not be proportional.

Ensure that the Chinese understand that, in the event of continued North Korean progress toward a miniaturized nuclear warhead and an operational ballistic delivery system, the United States will supply Japan and perhaps South Korea with nuclear weapons.

Finally, and in the unlikely event that nothing works and Pyongyang is actually only a few turns of a screwdriver away from a deliverable nuclear weapon, war may be our only remaining option. 

Military action against North Korea would have to be sudden, massive and ruthless. Our strategy cannot follow a gradual escalation of military activity as that would likely lead Pyongyang to hit South Korea and Japan. The drawn-out nature of such a strategy would also increase pressure on the Chinese to act in support of their protectorate.War with North Korea would ideally begin with a devastating elimination strike against the country’s leadership when it is assembled together for one of its periodic parades or other ceremonies.

Simultaneously, there would be strikes against internal communications systems, mobile and static missile launching facilities, nuclear weapons testing and storage sites and a colossal attack on the vast artillery presence which NK has installed along the ceasefire line and which is in range of the South Korean capital of Seoul.

N Korea nuke threat / Headline SurferFinally, and in the unlikely event that nothing works and Pyongyang is actually only a few turns of a screwdriver away from a deliverable nuclear weapon, war may be our only remaining option. 

Military action against North Korea would have to be sudden, massive and ruthless. Our strategy cannot follow a gradual escalation of military activity as that would likely lead Pyongyang to hit South Korea and Japan. The drawn-out nature of such a strategy would also increase pressure on the Chinese to act in support of their protectorate.War with North Korea would ideally begin with a devastating elimination strike against the country’s leadership when it is assembled together for one of its periodic parades or other ceremonies.

Simultaneously there would be strikes against internal communications systems, mobile and static missile launching facilities, nuclear weapons testing and storage sites and a colossal attack on the vast artillery presence which NK has installed along the ceasefire line and which is in range of the South Korean capital of Seoul.

War would entail very substantial risk to our area allies. There is even some risk of military conflict with China though not, in my opinion, a danger of all-out war with Beijing. 

No one wants to follow such a dangerous and expensive course. But we cannot tolerate a future in which the territory of the United States has to live under the shadow of a possible NK nuclear missile strike.

We are running out of time. A decision must be made.

Stan Escudero
June 30, 2017
Stan Escudero Picture

Short Bio

The Guidepost By Stanley Escudero
Stanley Escudero is a retired career diplomat, businessman & native Floridian, who lives in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida, with his wife, Jaye. He served as chairman of the Volusia County Republican Executive Committee in 2011-2012. Escudero was appointed to the Daytona State College Board of Trustees in 2015, By Gov. Rick Scott. Escudero, writer of the 'The Guidepost' politcal column since 2010, is a member of the inaugural Class of 2017 Headline Surfer Hall of Fame. All news content copyright-protected intellectual property of NSB News LLC, which may not be duplicated or re-published in whole or in part without advance approval of the publisher. Headline Surfer® is published by award-winning journalist Henry Frederick.