Inching closer to war with North Korea

Trump threatens North Korean regime change - “Donald Trump has appeared to threaten regime change against North Korea, tweeting to say if the country's foreign minister echoed the thoughts of its leader they ‘won't be around much longer,’” writes Samuel Osborne for The Independent. “The mudslinging came as US bombers and fighter escorts flew to the farthest point north of the border between North and South Korea by any such American aircraft had this century.”

--“The Pentagon said the mission, in international airspace, showed how seriously Mr Trump takes the North's ‘reckless behaviour’... In a speech at the United Nations last week, Mr Trump had issued the warning of potential obliteration and mocked the North's young autocrat as a ‘Rocket Man’ on a ‘suicide mission.’ His executive order expanded the Treasury Department's ability to target anyone conducting significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea, and to ban them from interacting with the US financial system.” Full article here.

See also - “The Memo: Fears escalate over North Korea” by Niall Stanage for The Hill here.

Tweet - @38NorthNK: As Trump & Kim escalate threats Joseph DeThomas points to the past, warning consequences of strategic miscalculation

De-escalation strategy needed - “America’s top priority must be to avoid a second Korean war. Yet such a war is closer than ever and appears almost inevitable unless America changes the approach President Trump has been using since he took office. The greatest risk of war with North Korea is not sudden action by Kim Jong Un, but Kim responding to a perceived attack by Trump. North Korea foreign minister Ri Yong-ho drove that home Monday when he called Trump’s threats against his country ‘a clear declaration of war,’” writes Jon Wolfsthal for USA Today.

--“The unprecedented, increasingly bizarre name-calling — ‘Rocket Man’ and ‘madman’ from Trump, met by ‘dotard’ from Kim — make this fragile situation even more dangerous. Trump’s aggressive statements are unlikely to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, nor are stepped-up military activities in and around Korea. Kim may only cling to it more tightly.” Wolfsthal urges creation of a de-escalation approach and development of military-to-military communication lines. For the full article, click here.

See also - “Trump Needs a Diplomatic Surge for North Korea” by Ben Cardin for Foreign Policy here.

Tweet - @KelseyDav: This is what comes of irresponsible statements - #NorthKorea asserts its right to shoot down U.S. bombers link

Ploughshares Fund in the News - Ploughshares President Joe Cirincione was on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last night talking Trump’s role in escalating tensions with North Korea here; he was on WBUR’s On Point today discussing the consequences of a nuclear exchange here; and he was on MSNBC’s The 11th Hour with Brian Williams talking about the escalatory rhetoric at the UN last week here.

Perilously close to conflict - “This is the way a nuclear war begins. Simulations of a war on the Korean peninsula usually start with a relatively minor incident at the demilitarized zone between South Korea and its hostile northern neighbor, or a provocation that develops into a conventional war and then escalates,” writes Barbara Demick for LA Times. “‘We are closer to a nuclear exchange than we have been at any time in the world's history with the single exception of the Cuban missile crisis,’’ [Adm. James] Stavridis said.”

--“The Pentagon has estimated the potential number of dead in South Korea at 20,000 each day, Givens said. And that is before the North Koreans turn to nuclear weapons… If Kim thinks his regime is collapsing, many of those who have long studied the inscrutable leader believe, he would be inclined to reach for the nuclear option in order to take down everyone else with him — a last lash of the dragon’s tail. ‘The North Koreans are in a weak position. They can’t sustain a protracted conventional war. They would have to reach for their weapons of mass destruction early on,’ said Daniel Pinkston, a former military translator who now teaches defense strategy in South Korea.” Full article here.

See also - “The North Korea Standoff Is Now As Bad As the Cuban Missile Crisis” by Daryl Kimball for Fortune here.

Tweet - @SecDef19: North Korea is expert at bluster, we must approach with level heads in order to avoid tragic miscalculation

Madman theory won’t work here - “In the history of nuclear diplomacy, no nation-state has ever given up atomic weapons in response to shrill threats… Sometimes leaders hold on to nukes because they fear that without them as a deterrent their countries might be invaded or destroyed. Kim Jong Un may well worry that if he gives up his nuclear weapons his regime will be overthrown,” writes Steve Coll for The New Yorker. “The U.S. may have to live with a nuclear North Korea indefinitely, but history shows that, with sufficient patience, economic pressure, and negotiation, nuclear states will sometimes disarm.”

--“To apply some version of the Madman Theory to the North Korean problem, however, as Trump seems inclined to do, is foolish… If Kim Jong Un believes that Trump is rash enough to initiate a first strike, he may accelerate his missile and nuclear-bomb tests and deployments. North Korea’s missile-testing binge this year has increased the odds of an accident. One of Kim’s rockets could veer off course and kill civilians in Japan or elsewhere. The result of such a calamity could conceivably be a war.” Full article here.

See also - “Wait, Are We at War With North Korea Now?” by Heather Hurlburt for New York Magazine’s Daily Intelligencer here.

Iran Deal vehemently defended - After months of quietly urging the Trump administration to preserve the Iran nuclear deal, European diplomats have begun an aggressive defense of it, warning of serious consequences if the United States ignores their concerns,” writes Gardiner Harris for The New York Times. “On Monday, the ambassadors to the United States from Britain, France, Germany and the European Union met on a stage at the Atlantic Council in Washington to reinforce that message.”

--“Responding to his speech, Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said there was ‘no need to reopen the agreement because it’s fully delivering.’ And she expressed the near-disbelief among European officials that Mr. Trump might walk away from the Iran accord while trying to resolve an escalating crisis involving North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. ‘We already have one potential nuclear crisis,’ she said. ‘We definitely do not need to go into a second one.’” For the full article, click here.

See also - “How Trump Can Get Out of His Iran Jam” by Barbara Slavin and Amir Handjani for POLITICO Magazine here.

Tweet - @nukes_of_hazard: What if @POTUS de-certifies Iranian compliance with #JCPOA? Our factsheet explains the process (pic a sample). …

Quick Hits

--“For the sake of national security, Trump must honor the Iran deal” by David Wade for The Hill here.

--“U.S. Mulls Naval Options Against N.Korea” by Yu Yong-weon for Chosun here.

--“Trump Will Be Hard-Pressed to Get Allies to Stop Buying Iran’s Oil” by Keith Johnson and Dan De Luce for Foreign Policy here.

--“Pentagon: U.S. flew bombers near North Korea to show 'resolve'” by Nolan D. McCaskill for POLITICO here.

--“Time to Restore Diplomacy” by Salih Booker for The New York Times here.

--“Here Are the Facts about the Iran Deal” by Daniel R. DePetris for The National Interest here.

--“Vatican at UN: Nukes won't save us – let's seek a better path” for Catholic News Agency here.


--“Debate: Future of the INF Treaty.” Hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, co-sponsored by Ploughshares Fund. Featuring Thomas Countryman, Alexandra Bell, Franklin C. Miller and Rebeccah Heinrichs. Wednesday, September 27, 2017. 4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. CSIS Headquarters, 1616 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036. Details here.

--"North Korea and the Nuclear Future.” Hosted by the George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government, Center for Security Policy Studies. Featuring Mark Fitzpatrick. Friday, September 29, 2017. 4:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. George Mason University Schar School, 3351 Fairfax Drive Hazel Hall 120, Arlington, VA 22201. Details here.

--“Monitoring and Verification in the Digital Age: Seven Recommendations for Improving the Process” Hosted by the Nuclear Verification Capabilities Independent Task Force of the Federation of American Scientists. Speakers include: Harvey Rishikof, Chris Bidwell and Valerie Lincy. Monday, October 2, 2017. 11:45 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Capitol Visitor’s Center-HVC 200, First St. NE, Washington, D.C. 20515. Details and registration here.

--“Consequences of a Collapse of the Iran Nuclear Deal” Hosted by the Center for a New American Security. Two panels will discuss ramifications of withdrawing from the Iran Deal. Panelists include: Richard Nephew, Elizabeth Rosenberg, Ilan Goldenberg, Colin Kahl and more. Tuesday, October 3, 2017. 1:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. Center for a New American Security, 1152 15th Street NW, Suite 950, Washington, D.C. 20005. Details and registration here.

--“How Do You Solve a Problem Like North Korea?” Hosted by CATO Institute. Speakers include: Joe Cirincione, Bill Richardson, Suzanne DiMaggio, Joshua Pollack, John Glaser and more. Monday, November 6, 2017. 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Hayek Auditorium, Cato Institute, 1000 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20001. Details and registration here.

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