Don’t ignore a crisisTension on the Korean Peninsula is reaching a boiling point. A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report confirms that North Korea can successfully fit a small nuclear warhead onto its ICBMs. Despite lingering suspicions about the North’s ICBM atmospheric re-entry technology, that’s only a matter of time. North Korea’s completion of nuclear ICBMs will serve as a game changer in the decades-old confrontation between Seoul and Pyongyang as it makes it difficult for Washington to retaliate against the North. The DIA estimates the North has as many as 60 nuclear bombs.
In such grim circumstances, Washington and Pyongyang are bent on ratcheting up the tension with a war of words. U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned that if North Korea continues to provoke the United States, it will face “fire, fury and frankly — power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.” The Associated Press said that’s unprecedented rhetoric from a U.S president, which explicitly shows Uncle Sam’s deepening concern about the stunning speed of advancement in the North’s nuclear and missile technologies.
Trump’s remarks coincide with U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo’s hinting at the possibility of “regime change” and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster’s mentioning of a “preventive war.” Such explosive language reflects an ever-deepening sense of crisis in Washington and the fear that North Korean nuclear ICBMs could fundamentally hurt America’s ability to use nuclear deterrence to protect its allies around the globe.
Meanwhile, North Korea threatens South Korea and the United States at the same time. In addition to its threat to turn Seoul into a sea of fire and make the U.S. mainland a “battleground for nuclear war,” Pyongyang vowed to consider the idea of firing intermediate-range ballistic missiles into the waters off Guam, where U.S. strategic assets are located.
President Moon Jae-in simply ordered a new lineup of top brass to reinforce our military posture “a bit,” while stressing the need to acquire capabilities to counter the North’s nuclear and missile provocations. His choice of words — “a bit” — in a meeting with top commanders succinctly shows how lax an attitude he has toward an undeniable emergency.
Some military experts argue for a redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea or the development of our own nuclear weapons. There is no need to exaggerate a crisis, but you can not ignore it. To weather a possible storm on the horizon, we must have a united stance. The government must click into crisis management mode after ending its zigzagging over the Thaad deployment.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 10, Page 30
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