The North Korean Dilemma – Part I: War And Peace



The North Koreans sent us a gift on July 4th. In the morning, — their time, it was still July 3rd evening here — they launched a missile. It reached a height of 1741 miles (2802 Km) which was 400 miles higher than the earlier May 14 launch. Calling it the Hwasong-14, they have claimed it has a range of 10,000 km and can reach anywhere in the world — a range greater than 5,500 km is an ICBM. This is now their 11th missile launch this year and their expertise cannot be denied. It is quite likely that they already have a warhead to fit since rational thinking suggests concurrent development.

Now what? The U.S. can send additional men or warships to the area in a show of force. But what else? The President leans on China in a tweet response but China has previously demurred.

The Chinese President Xi Jinping was on a visit to Moscow and at a joint news conference with President Putin, the latter proposed pushing forward their joint initiative on North Korea. It calls for freezes in ballistic missile tests and also dealing with U.S. deployment of weapons in South Korea. He is referring of course to the THAAD ABM system installed in South Korea.

The Russians are particularly worried about the girdling of their country with ABM systems. Mr. Putin has pointed out previously how these have destabilized the prior balance. Russia now is faced with a launch on warning choice — a kind of use it or lose it, because a U.S. first strike coupled with the ABMs present the potential of neutralizing the Russian ICBMs.

The Dr. Strangelove who thought up this first strike capability must have been just about as nuts as the movie character for by creating a hair trigger he has brought us to the doorstep of World War III.

Will we see reason and dismantle these sites, or will Russia eventually be forced to eliminate them unitarily? And then what will be the consequences? Is a reality TV star and property/casino developer the best equipped to handle them? Unsettling questions all of them, but this is the world we live in.

While our president speculates on China to ‘put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all’ in his tweet, he forgets it is probably more likely China is helping its ally along to secure a bigger and bigger bargaining chip. Are the days of the THAAD system in South Korea numbered? One can add, it is not particularly liked by the new South Korean president for it makes his country a target, and he, in contrast with his predecessor, favors a political diplomatic strategy in dealing with the North.

And so it was, as the U.S. celebrated its 241st anniversary of independence — another war that might have been avoided. Had the radical Whigs won the British election, the colonists would have gotten the vote and we would all be living in a giant Canada benefiting from their excellent healthcare system. Not to be, the authoritarians of the right won. They believed the colonists should do as they were told because they enjoyed Britain’s protection. Perhaps patience would have resolved the issue. But then who had time for patience with France waiting in the wings to settle old scores, particularly its reversals in India. The web of global politics (and its uncertainty) can catch even the most wary.

Dr Arshad M Khan ( is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media. His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.

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