After First 100 Days, Still No Clear Strategy on North Korea

North Korea protests U.S.-ROK drills - “North Korea accused the United States on Tuesday of pushing the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war after a pair of strategic U.S. bombers flew training drills with the South Korean and Japanese air forces in another show of strength,” write Ju-min Park and Ben Blanchard for Reuters. “North Korea said the bombers conducted ‘a nuclear bomb dropping drill against major objects’ in its territory at a time when Trump and ‘other U.S. warmongers are crying out for making a preemptive nuclear strike’ on the North. ‘The reckless military provocation is pushing the situation on the Korean peninsula closer to the brink of nuclear war,’ the North's official KCNA news agency said on Tuesday.”

--“Trump warned in an interview with Reuters on Thursday that a ‘major, major conflict’ with North Korea was possible, while China said last week the situation on the Korean peninsula could escalate or slip out of control. In a show of force, the United States has already sent an aircraft carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, to waters off the Korean peninsula to conduct drills with South Korea and Japan… The North is technically still at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a treaty, and regularly threatens to destroy the United States, Japan and South Korea.” Full article here.

See also - “What War With North Korea Would Look Like” interview with Jon Wolfsthal for WBUR here.

Despite drills, Trump changes tone - “If you didn't know better, you'd swear President Trump actually likes Kim Jong Un,” writes Aaron Blake for The Washington Post. “At least, that's the impression he's leaving — and apparently deliberately so. Over the past week, Trump has made comments about the North Korean dictator that occupy the middle of the Venn diagram between empathy and flattery.”

--“‘If it would be appropriate for me to meet with him, I would absolutely,’ Trump said, adding: ‘I would be honored to do it.’ Combined with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson floating the idea of diplomacy last week, it's clear what Trump is getting at here: He wants to cut a deal. Some immediately compared Trump's posture here to former president Barack Obama saying in 2008 that he was open to negotiating with Iran without preconditions. It's not quite the same thing, though, as Trump emphasized — repeatedly — that there very much needs to be preconditions.” For the full article, click here.

See also - “Trump Administration Wants North Korea At Negotiating Table On Nuclear Weapons” by Michele Kelemen for NPR here.

Ploughshares Fund in the news - BBC Newshour: “US Urges UN to Act on North Korea” Listen here.

Understand thine enemy - “The world let out a collective sigh of relief earlier this month when a much-anticipated and feared sixth North Korean nuclear test never materialized” writes Philip Yun for The Seattle Times. “But as the dangerous display of geopolitical theater continues to take anxiety-producing twists and turns, the Trump administration ought to spend less time taunting Kim Jong Un and more time getting to ‘know thy enemy.’ It should come as no surprise that the North Korean leadership’s ultimate goal is regime survival.”

--“To accomplish this, it has steadfastly pursued three objectives that are perfectly rational if seen through the lens of the regime’s strategic interests: prevent foreign attack and intimidation; preserve the national myth of the regime’s historic destiny; and improve the country’s desperate living standards for elite segments of the population. If we understand North Korea’s motivations and its strategic endgame, then we may just be able to step back from the precipice of conflict. Addressing the North’s key concerns — security, international political standing, as well as a way for North Korea to provide economically for its people — is the only chance the West has to deal with the long-persistent North Korea problem that is only going to get worse with time.” For the full article, click here.

See also - “North Korea’s Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile Program: Are the Tests Poised to Accelerate?” by Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. for 38North here.

Take action - Ready to restore checks and balances to the nuclear codes? Inspired by the legislation proposed by Rep. Ted Lieu and Sen. Ed Markey, Ploughshares Fund, along with sixteen other public interest groups, has created a new petition urging Congress to keep America safe by preventing any U.S. President from unilaterally launching a nuclear weapon. Sign and share the petition today.

Retrospective on heedless 100 days - “In his first 100 days in office, President Trump has used or threatened force on numerous occasions in ways that portend strategic hazards for the United States moving forward. A presidential decision-making process driven by impulse and emotion, the absence of a clear strategy or message to guide American actions, the demotion of diplomacy, and fundamental questions about the legality of his actions all increase the danger that President Trump will blunder into an armed conflict due to miscalculation or accident,” write Peter Juul and Ken Gude for the Center for American Progress.

--“For a president who clearly views military force as his primary foreign policy tool, the patterns revealed by Trump’s behavior in his first 100 days in office serve as an ominous warning sign for American citizens and foreign leaders alike.” Full article here.

Tweet - @tparsi: In principle, I welcome Trump declaring willingness for diplomacy w/ North Korea. But his approach instills no confidence for success

World doubles-down on nuclear weapons - If you are looking for a reason the United States urgently needs to update its nuclear posture review, which is generally done every eight years, look no further than this sentence from the last review in 2010. ‘While policy differences continue to arise between the two countries and Russia continues to modernize its still-formidable nuclear forces, Russia and the United States are no longer adversaries, and prospects for military confrontation have declined dramatically.’ That was then; this is now,” writes Jamie McIntyre for the Washington Examiner

--“‘Russia, in 2006, started a huge, aggressive program to modernize and build new nuclear capabilities. They continue that to this day. New ballistic missiles, new weapons, new cruise missiles, significant air-launch cruise missile capabilities, now the ground launch cruise missile capabilities,’ [Commander of U.S. nuclear forces, Air Force Gen. John] Hyten warned Congress. ‘China has done the same thing. Hypersonic glide vehicles on both sides that bring new threats to bear.’... ‘Whatever well-intentioned hopes we may have had after the end of the Cold War,’ [Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John] McCain said, ‘the United States can no longer seek to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy or narrow the range of contingencies under which we would have to consider their use.’”

--“Also off the table is consideration of eliminating any of the three legs of the nuclear triad, the Cold War strategy under which the U.S. maintains the capability to deliver nuclear weapons from submarines, bombers and land-based ICBMs. The 30-year triad modernization plan calls for a new Columbia class of ballistic missile submarines, new B-21 Raider long-range stealth bombers, and new replacement ICBMs known as the ground-based deterrent, along with new bombs and cruise missiles. It is projected to cost $1 trillion.” Full article here.

Trump’s dangerous mixed signals - Trump may have reversed or softened many of his campaign promises, “yet on Iran, the president continues to send dangerously mixed signals that could jeopardize the nuclear agreement, divide the United States from its allies and embolden hard-liners in Iran. Trump is right to be concerned about Iran’s support for militant groups in Lebanon, Yemen and Afghanistan, and its insistence on testing ballistic missiles that potentially could be used to deliver nuclear weapons,” writes the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board. “But he can respond to those provocations without repudiating — or hinting that he will repudiate — an agreement that is as much in this country’s interest as it is Iran’s.”

--“Perhaps Trump thinks that by floating the possibility that he will abandon the nuclear agreement he will induce Iran to alter its behavior on other fronts; if that’s his strategy, it’s a dangerous and divisive one. He needs to make it clear that, so long as Iran abides by the letter of the nuclear agreement, so will the United States.” For the full article, click here.

Tweet - @suzannedimaggio: EU officials, business leaders visit #Iran in show of support for the nuclear deal, energy deals.

Quick Hits

--“Interview: Dr. Vincent Intondi” by John C. Baker for Ploughshares Fund here.

--“Much Ado About Nothing: Politico’s Iran Deal Investigation Debunked” by Trita Parsi for Huffington Post here.

--“China ‘might agree’ to UN oil embargo of North Korea” by Shi Jiangtao for South China Morning Post here.

--“North Korea cut off by 3rd biggest trading partner” by Ivana Kottasová and Sugam Pokharel for CNN Money here.

--“The Japanese citizens who only have 10 minutes warning before a nuclear attack” by Mari Yamaguchi for The Independent here.


--Markey-Lieu Press Conference on the “Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons” Bill. Wednesday May 3, 2017 from 12:00p.m.-1:00p.m. in Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 562. Details and RSVP here.

--“Nurturing People-to-People Ties with Iran” hosted by Atlantic Council. Friday May 5, 2017, 10:00a.m. Atlantic Council, 1030 15th ST NW, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details here.

--“Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War.” Featuring: Joe Cirincione, William Hartung, Elaine Scarry, and others. Massachusetts Peace Action. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Saturday May 6, 2017, 9:00a.m.-5:00p.m. MIT Room 34-101, 50 Vassar St, Cambridge, MA 02139. Details here.

--“21st Century Nuclear Disarmament: Lessons from the Past and Present, Visions of the Future" John Carl Baker, Mellon-ACLS Public Fellow at the Ploughshares Fund will be speaking. Monday May 8, 2017, 12:30p.m. Princeton University, 221 Nassau Street, 2nd Floor, Princeton, NJ, 08542. Details here.

--“Strategic Competition in Southern Asia: Arms Racing or Modernization?" Wednesday May 17, 2017. 10:00a.m.-1:45p.m. Stimson Center, 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW, 8th Floor, Washington D.C. 20036. Details and RSVP here.

--“Debate: Modernization of Nuclear Missiles.” Hosted by Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) and Ploughshares Fund. Featuring: Jon Wolfsthal, Christine Parthemore, General C. Robert Kehler (Ret.) and Heather Williams. Tuesday May 23, 2017, 4:30p.m.-7:00p.m. at CSIS Headquarters 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036. Details here.

--“The Women’s March to Ban the Bomb.” Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Saturday, June 17, 2017, 12:00p.m.-4:00p.m. Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, Greenmarket, 2nd Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Details here.

--“PONI 2017 Summer Conference.” The first conference of the 2017-2018 PONI Conference Series will be held June 21-22 at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Center for Global Security Research in Livermore, California. The two-day conference will feature a series presentations from emerging nuclear experts, a keynote address, tours of facilities at Lawrence Livermore, and a breakout discussion on nuclear terrorism adapted from a ministerial-level scenario that will led by Corey Hinderstein and Heather Looney from NNSA. The conference will be off-the-record. Details here.

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