Posts Tagged ‘deterrence’

Japan bothered by ramifications of U.S. halt to Korean war games

July 1, 2018

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spent the last leg of his weeklong trip to Asia reassuring Japan that Washington remains committed to its defense amid the evolving regional security situation following the historic U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore on June 12.

But Japan may not be able to take the reassurances at face value, with defense sources and experts pointing to uncertainties hanging over the latest U.S. move to halt military exercises with South Korea in the hope of facilitating talks on North Korea’s denuclearization.

By Miya Tanaka


Following talks with his Japanese counterpart, Itsunori Onodera, in Tokyo on Friday, Mattis emphasized at a news conference that the decision to cancel the U.S.-South Korea drills is meant to increase the prospects “for a peaceful solution” on the Korean Peninsula.

“At the same time,” he said, “we maintain a strong collaborative defensive stance to ensure our diplomats continue to negotiate from a position of unquestioned strength.”

Image result for Foal Eagle, photos

U.S.-South Korea exercises

However, the Pentagon chief offered few clues on how deterrence capabilities and readiness to deal with contingencies on the peninsula can be maintained without the exercises, which Japan describes as one of the “important pillars” of deterrence in the region.

“What if the suspension of major U.S.-South Korea exercises is not just this once but prolonged? It could undermine the readiness of the U.S. and South Korean forces, affecting them slowly like a body blow,” a senior Self-Defense Forces official said.

President Donald Trump shocked U.S. allies when he abruptly announced after his June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the United States would be “stopping the war games” with South Korea as long as dialogue continues with Pyongyang, slamming them as “tremendously expensive” and “provocative.”

The U.S. Defense Department followed up with announcements calling off Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a largely computer-simulated command post exercise held every summer, and two more planned in the next three months.

Additional decisions will depend on North Korea “continuing to have productive negotiations in good faith,” the Pentagon said in a statement on June 22, leaving open what to do with other major joint drills conducted every spring — the computer-simulated command post Key Resolve and the Foal Eagle field exercises.

Chung Hun Sup, a professor at Nihon University who has conducted research on U.S. troops in South Korea, said the impact of canceling the exercises should not be underestimated.

“Freedom Guardian, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle are the most representative major exercises involving the United States and South Korea. Suspending any of these will create a huge dent in their joint military operational abilities,” he said.

He also said holding drills, even smaller ones, are important as the commanders of U.S. forces in South Korea change periodically and quickly need to get used to the feeling they are in the “battlefield.”

While the SDF and the U.S. military plan to continue joint exercises to beef up the bilateral alliance, it is unclear whether Japan, South Korea and the U.S. will actively hold trilateral exercises.

The three have conducted joint missile-tracking exercise in waters near Japan over the past few years amid North Korea’s repeated nuclear and missile tests.

But a Maritime Self-Defense Force member said he cannot imagine Seoul agreeing to hold such training amid the mood of reconciliation with the North.

Some Japanese defense officials are afraid that the halt of exercises, if continued for years, could raise questions over the raison d’etre of the U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, which remains technically at war with the North as the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.

The officials say a withdrawal of U.S. troops would be the “worst-case scenario” because a weakening of U.S. commitment to the defense of South Korea would leave China free to increase its regional clout.

Tetsuo Kotani, an associate professor at Meikai University who specializes in security issues, said reviewing the role of the U.S. forces in South Korea or scaling back their presence have probably become “inevitable,” not just because Trump has repeatedly expressed his hope to eventually pull out the troops.

Following North Korea’s sudden diplomatic outreach earlier this year, the leaders of the two Koreas met in April for the first time in over a decade and agreed to strive to declare a formal end to the Korean War later this year.

If inter-Korean relations continue to improve and the armistice is replaced with a peace treaty, the presence of the U.S. military will certainly be called into question, the associate professor said.

Kotani also said it is difficult to judge what impact a lasting detente on the Korean Peninsula and the removal of the U.S. military presence from South Korea would have on the 50,000 U.S. troops based in Japan.

“Discussions could go either way — that there is no need to maintain U.S. forces in Japan amid such detente, or that there is rather a need to reinforce the military to counter China. We have to keep in mind both possibilities,” he said.



Trump Administration plan sees deterrence in new nuclear firepower

January 14, 2018

WASHINGTON (AP) — With Russia in mind, the Trump administration is aiming to develop new nuclear firepower that it says will make it easier to deter threats to European allies.

The plan, not yet approved by President Donald Trump, is intended to make nuclear conflict less likely. Critics argue it would do the opposite.

The proposal is spelled out in a policy document, known officially as a “nuclear posture review,” that puts the U.S. in a generally more aggressive nuclear stance. It is the first review of its kind since 2010 and is among several studies of security strategy undertaken since Trump took office.

In many ways it reaffirms the nuclear policy of President Barack Obama, including his commitment to replace all key elements of the nuclear arsenal with new, more modern weapons over the coming two decades.

It says the U.S. will adhere to existing arms control agreements, while expressing doubt about prospects for any new such pacts. The Trump nuclear doctrine is expected to be published in early February, followed by a related policy on the role and development of U.S. defenses against ballistic missiles.

Where the Trump doctrine splits from Obama’s approach is in ending his push to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. defense policy. Like Obama, Trump would consider using nuclear weapons only in “extreme circumstances,” while maintaining a degree of ambiguity about what that means. But Trump sees a fuller deterrent role for these weapons, as reflected in the plan to develop new capabilities to counter Russia in Europe.

The Huffington Post published online a draft of the nuclear policy report Thursday, and The Associated Press independently obtained a copy Friday. Asked for comment, the Pentagon called it a “pre-decisional,” unfinished document yet to be reviewed and approved by Trump, who ordered it a year ago.

Russia, and to a degree China, are outlined as nuclear policy problems that demand a tougher approach.

The administration’s view is that Russian policies and actions are fraught with potential for miscalculation leading to an uncontrolled escalation of conflict in Europe. It specifically points to a Russian doctrine known as “escalate to de-escalate,” in which Moscow would use or threaten to use smaller-yield nuclear weapons in a limited, conventional conflict in Europe in the belief that doing so would compel the U.S. and NATO to back down.

The administration proposes a two-step solution.

First, it would modify “a small number” of existing long-range ballistic missiles carried by Trident strategic submarines to fit them with smaller-yield nuclear warheads.

Secondly, “in the longer term,” it would develop a nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile — re-establishing a weapon that existed during the Cold War but was retired in 2011 by the Obama administration.

Together, these steps are meant to further dissuade “regional aggression,” which means giving Russia greater pause in using limited nuclear strikes.

Interest in the condition and role of U.S. nuclear weapons has grown as North Korea develops its own nuclear arsenal it says is aimed at the U.S.

The Trump administration views the North Korean threats, along with what it sees as provocative nuclear rhetoric from Russia, as evidence that security conditions no longer support the idea that the U.S. can rely less on nuclear weapons or further limit their role in national defense.

The nuclear report also makes rare mention of a newer Russian weapon: a nuclear-armed drone torpedo that could travel undersea to far-off targets.

Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons specialist at the Federation of American Scientists, questions whether the administration is overstating the Russian threat and responding with the right solution. But he said it is clear that Moscow has raised fears in the West by its aggression in Ukraine.

“Clearly, the Russia situation is much more of a direct confrontational situation,” he said. “The gloves are off.”

Bruce Blair, a former nuclear missile launch officer who co-founded Global Zero, which advocates the elimination of nuclear weapons, called the report “basically a status quo document” except for the plan to develop new nuclear options for countering Russia. He worries these could lead the U.S. into “blundering into a nuclear war with Russia.” Blair based his comments partly on knowledge of the report’s content before it appeared online.

“The Pentagon’s underlying motivation,” Blair said, “is fear of Russia’s new option for striking U.S. and Western European civilian infrastructure — financial, energy, transportation and communications — with cyber and conventional forces.”

Moscow developed this doctrine in recent years to exploit vulnerabilities in vital Western infrastructure, such as communications networks, he said. This falls into a category of threat the Trump administration calls “non-nuclear strategic,” meaning it could inflict unacceptably high numbers of casualties or costs.

Authors of the Trump nuclear doctrine argue that adding new U.S. nuclear capabilities to deter Russia in Europe will lessen, not increase, the risk of war. They worry the nuclear-capable aircraft that are currently the only Europe-based nuclear force to counter Russia have become less credible, in part because they may be vulnerable to Russian air defenses. Thus, the focus on adding sea-launched U.S. nuclear weapons to the mix.

“This is not intended to, nor does it, enable ‘nuclear war-fighting,’” the draft report said. Instead, the goal is to make nuclear conflict less likely by ensuring that “potential adversaries” see no possible advantage in escalating a conventional conflict to the nuclear level.

Three Reasons Israel Doesn’t Want a War in Gaza Right Now – And, Yes, Iran Is One

January 1, 2018

The Israeli leadership is sounding bullish about its deterrence factor in Gaza but trying to maintain radio silence over events on the streets of Iran

By Amos Harel Jan 01, 2018 8:23 AM

Palestinian demonstrators running for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli troops during clashes at a protest near the border in the southern Gaza Strip, December 29, 2017.

Palestinian demonstrators running for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli troops during clashes at a protest near the border in the southern Gaza Strip, December 29, 2017. IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS

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The Israeli statements about the stability of the Israel Defense Forces’ deterrence with regard to Hamas in the Gaza Strip should be taken with a grain of salt. Deterrence remains effective until that mysterious moment when it stops working – and that usually happens at a time and in a manner that surprises both the leadership and intelligence experts.

The facts on the ground also raise doubts about the validity of deterrence in Gaza these days. More than 40 rockets and mortars have been fired from the Gaza Strip toward Israel in the space of three and a half weeks – since U.S. President Donald Trump’s declaration recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel – so even if Hamas is afraid of Israel, it seems that it’s not afraid enough. Arrests and torture by Hamas have so far failed to completely stem the rocket fire by Salafi groups and, in a few cases, Islamic Jihad.

Opposition leaders in Israel are taking advantage of the opportunity to bash Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who rarely speaks about the situation in Gaza, and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who has stopped issuing threats on the life of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Instead, on Sunday he posted a comic video clip of himself in honor of the Novy God New Year celebrations. But these premier-bashers don’t explain exactly what alternative solution they propose.

Supported by the army and the Shin Bet security service, Netanyahu and Lieberman want to delay a military conflict for as long as possible, and for a number of reasons.

A university student attending a protest inside Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot Iranian police, Iran, December 30, 2017.
A university student attending a protest inside Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot Iranian police, Iran, December 30, 2017./AP

First, they aren’t sure what Israel can achieve through war (and it seems that, contrary to his statements when he was in the opposition, Lieberman is no longer sure a better alternative to Hamas would come to power in the Gaza Strip). Second, they believe construction of the defense barrier to prevent tunnels, and other tunnel-detection methods, will produce results and that such measures should continue without the interruption of a war.

Third, they’re aware of the potential harm to Israel’s international image with another war in the heart of a densely populated civilian area. That doesn’t mean fighting in the Strip won’t escalate the moment Israelis are hit by rockets or mortars, but meanwhile it seems the policy of restraint is continuing.

There might be another consideration in the background. On Saturday, Lieberman accused Iran of responsibility for the tension in the Gaza Strip. He mentioned the renewal of ties between Tehran and Hamas’ military wing in Gaza, and said the Iranians manufactured the mortars that were fired on Israeli communities on the Gaza border last Friday.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Israel has played the Iran card in its PR wars. In fact, even if Tehran is always happy to fan the flames on Israel’s borders, the considerations behind the latest flare-up are mainly internal Palestinian ones, connected to the strategic and economic distress in which Hamas has placed itself.

But there’s another connection between Iran and Gaza – and this actually involves Israeli considerations. Last week, the Iranian leadership encountered the most serious threat to its rule since the failed “green revolution” of 2009. Under these circumstances, Israel has a clear interest in not diverting the world’s attention from Iran’s troubles at home. If the attention of the international media roves from current events in the streets of Tehran and Qom to events on the Gaza border, Israel will lose twice.

No economic miracle

At Netanyahu’s clear and obvious behest, Israel currently is responding minimally to the widespread wave of demonstrations in Iran (though unsurprisingly, Communications Minister Ayoub Kara could not hold back – and the longer the crisis persists, the stronger the likelihood that he will not be alone). Asked to assess developments in Iran in the days and weeks to come, Israeli intelligence officials declined to risk doing so. The Iranian authorities have known in the past how to quell protest both brutally and efficiently. But it’s too early to be able to predict with any certainty what direction the new protest will take.

The United States, in unusually fluent tweets by Trump, expressed restrained support for the protesters. It seems Israel would do well to remain strictly outside the Iranian crisis. Possible impact would be nil anyway and, no matter what happens, Tehran will claim it’s all an American-Zionist plot.

From initial reports and analyses, coming both indirectly and directly from Iran, it seems the primary reason for the current outburst is economic. The lifting of sanctions on Iran following the nuclear agreement in July 2015 didn’t lead to the restoration of Iran’s economy with the anticipated strength and speed. The combination of a burdensome bureaucracy, government corruption and hesitation by the international community has delayed the economic renaissance Tehran had hoped for.

So far, reports are building of a large number of demonstrations in various cities, with great daring being shown by the participating citizens. There are also reports of the first casualties being shot by Iranian security forces and government attempts to slow down internet traffic, in order to make it more difficult to transmit messages on social media.

All of this recalls 2009, albeit with two differences: First, this is happening after the huge upheaval of the Arab Spring (which at the time was also attributed to a late response to suppression of the green revolution in Iran). Second, the variety of social media, their extent and depth of penetration is greater than in the past, and certainly required greater monitoring by the authorities.

Western media outlets, which have awakened from their Christmas hangover, are not responding with amazement to the news from Iran. But it’s hard to build an intelligent forecast based on some grainy video footage.

There’s no doubt that the protesters – who cite Iran’s huge investments in terror and guerrilla groups throughout the Middle East – are touching a sore point. Just two years ago, the supreme religious leader, Ali Khamenei, decided to extract most of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps from Syria and replace them with Shi’ite militias from other countries due to the anger at home over the number of Iran fatalities in the civil war.

The chances of a new Iranian revolution do not seem high. But with the coming of the new year, perhaps we can hope, for a change, for some positive news in the Middle East.

Amos Harel
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How will Trump’s Asian diplomacy play out?

December 5, 2017

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Akihiko Tanaka, left, and Ryozo Kato

The Yomiuri Shimbun

U.S. President Donald Trump has completed his first Asian tour since being inaugurated. With the Asia-Pacific region facing problems, including the threat of North Korea’s continued nuclear and missile development and the conflict between China and its neighbors as China’s economic and military strength fuels increased maritime expansion, what was the outcome of Trump’s “America First” diplomacy? What are its future tasks? We asked experts for their thoughts.


Time to assess North Korea sanctions

Akihiko Tanaka

President of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies

Trump safely passed the diplomacy test. He was able to maintain the deterrence power against North Korea and to deliver the message of reinforcing sanctions. On this point, he received a degree of commitment even from slightly worried South Korean President Moon Jae In and Chinese President Xi Jinping. It was also significant that Southeast Asian countries have expressed the idea of implementing economic sanctions against North Korea.

Now is the time to assess the effect of sanctions. We can see North Korea’s attitude and decide whether to hold talks with them. If it continues its nuclear and missile development, there is no point in talking.

The United States has adopted an offensive military stance to ensure that deterrence is effective. The question is whether the United States will start a preemptive war to destroy nuclear and missile facilities even if there is no indication of a nuclear attack by North Korea. That would violate international law and is difficult to imagine, since it is unknown whether a North Korean counterattack could be 100 percent contained.

The United States would lose authority in the event of massive casualties among the South Korean people and American citizens in South Korea.

However, I think there is little possibility of North Korea abandoning its nuclear weapons and missiles due to strengthened sanctions. Solving the issue in one or two years is unrealistic. It may take five, 10 or 20 years. Even if North Korea threatens Japan or South Korea with nuclear weapons, we don’t have to submit to it.

Nevertheless, there are concerns of an outbreak caused by a miscalculation or mistake, so it is important for Japan to develop ballistic missile defenses.

Japan and the United States agreed on a common diplomatic strategy of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” I myself have insisted on the concept of emphasizing the Indo-Pacific region, so I think it’s fine.

However, it is a mistake to think of this as a strategy to create a network encircling China. The region is important because it is expected to see high growth in the future. I think China would find the strategy acceptable because it coincides with the “one road” element of its “One Belt, One Road” [initiative], which can be regarded as a maritime silk road for the 21st century.

The important point is to reduce the threat of war as much as possible in this region. A range of conflict zones exist in the northern inland area, and stable growth will not happen unless the threat of terrorism or civil war is reduced. In the South China Sea, where the Pacific and Indian oceans connect, we need to watch how China acts. It is imperative that it is not allowed to proceed with the construction of more bases.

Finally, a broad agreement by the 11 countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement showed Japanese diplomacy is a force to be reckoned with. I don’t think the United States will return to the TPP under the Trump administration, but mainstream U.S. experts in international relations and economics want their country to understand the disadvantages of not joining the multilateral agreement. Though unusual in terms of Japan’s diplomacy, the country must steadily build a framework without the United States, while being willing to welcome the United States if it returns.

Tanaka is an expert in international politics. He served as a professor at the University of Tokyo, vice president of the university, and president of the Japan International Cooperation Agency before assuming his current position in April. His major publications include “Word Politics” and “The Post-Crisis World.” He is 63.

(This interview was conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer Haruki Sasamori.)


Japan, U.S. should align views on China

Ryozo Kato

Former Japanese Ambassador to the United States

Trump’s Asia tour was a kind of debut performance, and he deployed his brand of omnidirectional foreign policy. Although he was absent from the East Asia Summit at the end of his itinerary, I think his emphasis was ultimately on bilateral meetings.

The tour was of major significance in terms of U.S. involvement in Asia. The United States’ two security priorities are Russia, which opposes it on the Ukraine issue, and the Middle East. I’d hesitate to say that Asia is an urgent issue. Because of this, it was important that the tour offered Trump and his aides the chance to feel for themselves the future importance of Asia.

In Japan, Trump first visited the U.S. Yokota Air Base.

He must have recognized the strong presence of the Japan-based U.S. military in East Asia and the firmness of the Japan-U.S. alliance. With North Korea’s nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles approaching actual deployment capability, it is obvious but also very significant that he and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe mutually recognized that the situation is approaching the stage where maximum pressure is required to really bring [development] to a halt.

For the United States, I think Japan plays a role similar to that of Britain in Europe, and China is like the former Soviet Union.

However, one aspect is different: While the Soviet Union prioritized the military, China is a major power both economically and militarily. It is not an easy opponent. Chinese President Xi Jinping’s invitation to Trump to visit the Forbidden City was reminiscent of the behavior of an emperor. Trump may not agree with Xi’s values, but it is possible he was impressed by his style of governance.

Traveling through Japan, China and South Korea, Trump likely saw that the position of each country differs even on the single issue of North Korea, and that the issue is not easy to address. It is impossible to formulate and implement a plan to deal with the Korean Peninsula problem without considering China’s strategy.

In a press announcement after the U.S.-China summit, Xi said, “The Pacific is large enough to accommodate both the United States and China,” and raised the possibility of a “G-2 concept” that includes the United States and China. Although this was a natural statement for China to make, steadily implementing such a strategy would diminish the prestige of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region and also harm U.S. national interests.

It must be acknowledged that the Trump administration’s Indo-Pacific strategy is still short on specifics. I would like the United States to first review future changes in the military balance and trends in China before coming up with its Asia policy.

Japan should strengthen talks with the United States on China to develop a shared view on the country. Additionally, Japan must take the necessary steps to ensure the stability of the Asia-Pacific region and that the United States play its role properly.

To increase the deterrence power of the Japan-U.S. alliance, Japan must raise its defense budget that, in turn, requires open domestic discussions about such matters as constitutional amendments, the nuclear issue, energy and cyber issues.


Kato joined the Foreign Ministry in 1965. After working as director general of the Asian Affairs Bureau, senior deputy minister and other posts, he served as the ambassador to the United States from October 2001 to June 2008. After retirement, he served as a commissioner of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization. He is 76.

(This interview was conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Writer Tatsuya Fukumoto.)

NATO chief hails Tillerson role on N.Korea

December 4, 2017

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump announces that the United States will designate North Korea a state sponsor of terrorism during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

BRUSSELS: The head of NATO on Monday praised embattled US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for his “key role” in the North Korea crisis as rumors swirl that his position is under threat.

Jens Stoltenberg insisted that a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels this week would not be distracted by doubts over Tillerson’s future.
Image result for Jens Stoltenberg, NATO, Photos
Jens Stoltenberg
Anonymous White House leaks have suggested Tillerson could be out of a job within weeks and even while denying this on Friday, President Donald Trump reminded him: “I call the final shots.”
Stoltenberg gave his backing to Tillerson’s efforts in tackling the crisis surrounding Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
“Secretary Tillerson has played a key role, both in sending the message of deterrence, the unity and the resolve of the whole alliance, but also when it comes to the need for continuing to work for a peaceful solution,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels.
Trump has publicly criticized his top diplomat on the issue, saying Tillerson was “wasting his time” pursuing contacts with North Korea.
Tillerson has dismissed reports that Trump aides want him to resign as “laughable,” but rumors are set to dog his diplomatic tour of Europe, which also includes visits to Paris and Vienna.
North Korea will be high on the agenda at the NATO meeting after Pyongyang last week tested its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile, which it says brings the whole of the continental United States within range.

Questions have been raised about whether the reported rift with Trump undermines Tillerson’s ability to negotiate with allies, but Stoltenberg said he had no concerns.

“We have seen again and again that NATO and NATO ministers are able to focus on the core task, on the job we have to do, despite any speculations and rumors, and I am absolutely certain that this will be the case also now,” Stoltenberg said.
“I am absolutely certain that all ministers — including secretary Tillerson — will focus on that task and be able to make important decisions.”
Rumours about Trump and Tillerson’s fractious relationship came to a head on Thursday when several US media outlets — citing White House sources — predicted Tillerson’s resignation and replacement by CIA chief Mike Pompeo.
Trump rejected the reports as “FAKE NEWS” in a tweet, but acknowledged the pair had policy differences.
The US Ambassador to NATO, Kay Baley Hutchison, also insisted Tillerson still spoke for the president.
“We have been working with Secretary Tillerson and his staff on this meeting for several weeks and there has been no change whatsoever,” she told reporters in Brussels on Monday.
The North has staged six increasingly powerful atomic tests since 2006 — most recently in September — which have rattled Washington and its key regional allies South Korea and Japan.

U.S. military strike won’t destroy all N. Korean nuclear capabilities: U.S. expert

October 26, 2017

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 (Yonhap) — A preventive military strike by the United States would not remove all of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities, a renowned American expert on the North Korean issue has said, while proposing economic sanctions as the most viable tool to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

“A preventive military strike would not destroy all of North Korea’s capabilities. It would risk a wider war that would inflame South Korea and Japan and potentially cause millions of casualties,” Michael Green, vice president for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said last week in Washington, D.C. in his meeting with South Korean journalists.

Previously, he served as a senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council under former U.S. President George W. Bush.

“It would also threaten the U.S. because North Korea has an ability even without ballistic missiles to transfer nuclear weapons to terrorist groups, so a preventive military strike would not get all of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and would risk an unacceptable war,” Green noted.

Diplomatic negotiations with Pyongyang would also not warrant resolution of North Korea’s nuclear problem, given the country’s track record of breaking previous agreements, he said.

“We shouldn’t end sanctions or military exercises in order to have dialogue with Pyongyang because then we will prove there’s no cost to North Korea for the path it’s on,” Green said, suggesting that the U.S. build “infrastructure of sustained consequence” for North Korea to facilitate diplomacy work with the regime. “We now have to restore deterrence and restore credibility if we have any chance in medium to long run diplomacy.”

Getting China to exert its influence in North Korea is crucial in the long run, he also highlighted.

“Chinese could be quite effective in significantly limiting North Korea’s ability to obtain dual-use materials or technology for nuclear weapons program … ability to transfer or proliferate those technologies outside of North Korea,” according to Green. “Chinese could be effective, if they sustain sanctions, at gradually changing the calculation of Pyongyang (though) it will take long time.”

“Our strategy should be getting China to put pressure on North Korea. The best way to do that is to show a very tight U.S.-Republic of Korea alliance,” he said, adding that China does not want to see a stronger military alliance between Seoul and Washington or a war on the Korean Peninsula.

Such a calculation might have been behind President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson implying possible military action against North Korea, he said. “China is the main target of this threat because the administration wants China to put pressure on North Korea.”

Between War and Acceptance, a Third Way on North Korea

October 2, 2017

Analysts say deterring and containing Pyongyang would be Trump administration’s best bet

President Donald Trump with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a luncheon in New York last month.
President Donald Trump with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson at a luncheon in New York last month. PHOTO: EVAN VUCCI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Trump administration now finds itself in a remarkable position: Nobody in the world knows where it stands on the most dangerous international issue of the day, and nobody is sure who speaks for the administration on that issue.

That’s the situation that emerged on Sunday, when President Donald Trump openly contradicted his own secretary of state on the approach the administration is taking with North Korea and its nuclear program. Rex Tillerson, speaking after a visit with Chinese leaders, said the U.S. has direct lines of communication with North Korea; within hours, Mr. Trump tweeted that his secretary of state is “wasting his time trying to negotiate.”

The resulting confusion would be risky under any circumstances. Yet the most ominous part of the exchange actually lies elsewhere, in the implication that Mr. Trump now sees only what Sen. Bob Corker, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, referred to Sunday as a “binary choice”: capitulation to North Korea or military conflict with potentially catastrophic consequences.

In fact, there is a third way, one that a variety of analysts from across the ideological spectrum have begun pointing to as a way out of the binary-choice box. It is a strategy called “deterrence and containment”: Deter the North Koreans from ever using their weapons against the U.S. and its allies, and contain Pyongyang in its box until sustained pressure brings about either a change of heart or a change of regime in the rogue nation.

This isn’t a novel approach, because it was the basis for perhaps the most successful national-security strategy in American history. Precisely 70 years ago this summer, American diplomat George Kennan wrote a famous article for Foreign Affairs magazine outlining the basis for a strategy of containment of the Soviet Union, which came to pose a much larger nuclear threat.

As tensions rise around the Korean peninsula, American leaders have been openly discussing what was once unthinkable: A military intervention in North Korea. If this were to happen, here’s how specialists on North Korean security see things playing out.

For the first time in almost a decade, Wall Street Journal reporters traveled to Pyongyang on a tightly controlled reporting trip in September. Here is an early look at some exclusive footage from North Korea. Video/Photo: Paolo Bosonin/The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Kennan, a staunch foe of Communism with on-the-ground experience in the Soviet Union, wrote in 1947 that the U.S. had little hope of good relations with the Soviets in the short term, given Moscow’s conviction it had both right and might on its side. But he also argued that the Soviet system, with its combination of paranoia and the resulting suppression of its citizens, carried the seeds of its own demise.

“This would of itself warrant the United States entering with reasonable confidence upon a policy of firm containment, designed to confront the Russians with unalterable counter-force at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world,” Mr. Kennan wrote.

Mr. Kennan wasn’t advocating that the U.S. stand idly by, but rather that it actively work to keep the Soviets in a box, while also seeking to undermine Communism internationally and to “influence” internal Soviet developments. His writing implied he thought this strategy might be necessary for 10 to 15 years. In fact, it took half a century, but ultimately the Soviet Union collapsed without a shot being fired.

The differences between the Soviet Union then and North Korea now are enormous, of course, starting with the question of whether North Korean leader Kim Jong Un can be counted on to respond rationally to pressure. Still, the parallels exist as well: a hostile and paranoid foreign power, its population kept under tight control, posing a military threat while a military confrontation risks horrific consequences.

Flash forward to today, and Michael J. Mazarr and Michael Johnson, senior researchers at the nonpartisan Rand Corp., write: “Contain, deter and transform. Not a radical solution, but one that has worked before—and an approach that holds out the hope of preserving U.S. interests while avoiding war.”

Jeffrey A. Bader, former Asia specialist on the National Security Council staff in the Obama administration now at the Brookings Institution, argues for an “assertive policy of deterrence and containment.” He writes that they are “not appealing options” and were attacked during the Cold War as “passive, immoral and defeatist.” But, he argues, “in fact they were none of those then, and would be none of those now.”

As Mr. Bader suggests, the contain-and-deter option hardly implies simply sitting back and watching. It would require significant buildup of American and allied missile-defense systems, a larger American military presence on land and at sea in Asia, a robust effort to isolate North Korea economically and diplomatically and efforts to undermine the North Korean regime internally and externally.

There are, of course, skeptics. “To be sure, this may be the only option left, but many who are advocating the policy don’t seem to be thinking through its military requirements and possible regional consequences,” writes Daniel Blumenthal of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. The approach also led, he notes, to costly proxy wars.

Still, the deter-and-contain idea at least shows there remains ample middle ground between capitulation and war.

Write to Gerald F. Seib at

North Korea: Where is the war of words with US heading?

September 27, 2017

BBC News

US soldiers from take part in exercises at the Rodriguez Range in Pocheon, South Korea (19 September 2017)Image copyrightAFP
None of the diplomatic initiatives being pursued internationally is likely to provide a magic bullet to the Korean crisis, but they may slow it down. AFP photo

In the wake of an escalating war of words between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, and an unprecedented night-time sortie of US B-1B bombers and F-15 fighters off the east coast of North Korea, relations between the two countries appear to be moving closer towards military conflict and hopes for a diplomatic resolution seem increasingly distant.

But are these fears exaggerated, and is the sign of resolution from the US and its regional allies in fact helping to provide clarity and reassurance at a time of maximum uncertainty?

Superficially, President Trump’s UN speech signalled continuity with the policy of past presidents, making it clear that military action (albeit on a catastrophic scale sufficient to “totally destroy North Korea”) would occur only if the US were “forced to defend itself or its allies”.

Similarly, the dispatch of US aircraft north of the Northern Limit Line – the de facto border separating the two Korea – could be interpreted as a necessary reinforcement of deterrence intended to send an unambiguous signal to the North to avoid further provocations.

The danger of this interpretation is that it is unduly optimistic and one-sided. The history of Cold War and post-Cold War conflict on the Korean peninsula, dating from the Korean War onwards, is littered with critical misperceptions of the intentions of the competing adversaries.

A US Air Force Rockwell B-1B Lancer (left) and a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker (right) sit on the tarmac at Andersen Air Force base in Yigo, Guam (17 August 2017)
By acting alone, as they did in the latest sortie, US military forces can advance the White House’s strategic objectives without having to consider the South’s interests. GETTY IMAGES
South Korean soldiers ride on an armoured vehicle during a South Korea-US combined arms collective training exercise at the US army's Rodriguez shooting range in Pocheon, about 70km north-east of Seoul (19 September 2017)
The war of words between North Korea and the US and its South Korean allies (above) is taking place during a period of maximum uncertainty. AFP photo

From Kim Il-sung’s misplaced confidence that his attack on the South in June 1950 would not provoke a defensive response from the Truman Administration, supported by the United Nations, to Gen Douglas MacArthur’s boast that he could push north beyond the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which divides the two Koreas, reuniting the peninsula without drawing China into the war. Time and again key actors have all too often misjudged their opponents with devastating consequences.

Intelligence reports from South Korea suggest that the North has not responded to the US aerial show of force either because it failed to detect the incursion, or because its anti-aircraft facilities are too antiquated to deal with the US challenge, or potentially because the regime is trying to minimise the risk of escalation.

Yet, this cautious assessment overlooks the role of emotion in any potential escalation scenario. Mr Trump’s intentionally humiliating description of Kim as “Little Rocket Man” will have been perceived in the North as deeply antagonistic to a North Korean leader for whom status and dignity are the bedrock of his legitimacy at home. Kim may therefore feel compelled to respond with further provocations, beyond the immediate, retaliatory insults that he and Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho have directed at the US president.

Military responses

One extreme option for the North would be to follow through on its threat to carry out an aerial test blast of a hydrogen bomb somewhere in the Pacific or in the waters surrounding the peninsula – an outcome that would be a major, and potentially life-threatening, escalation that could risk a military pre-emptive attack on the North by the US.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in makes a speech at the 10th anniversary of an inter-Korean summit in Seoul (26 September 2017)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (above) is both in style and substance pursuing an approach to the North that sets him apart from President Trump. EPA photo

A less obvious response, would be for the North to engage in low-level conventional provocations. These could, for example, include:

  • The shelling of South Korean territory (comparable to the attack on Yeonpyong island in October 2010)
  • The dispatch of North Korea special forces to disable the South’s missile batteries or threaten government personnel below the DMZ
  • Cyber attacks on commercial facilities or South Korean or US military command-and-control sites in the South

There is unconfirmed speculation that prior to becoming the leader of the North, Kim Jong-un planned and co-ordinated the attack on the Cheonan, the South Korean naval vessel that sank with the loss of 46 South Korean sailors in March 2010.

That suggests that Kim’s personal experience might encourage him to explore these options.

Such scenarios raise the important question of how the US would respond and with what level of co-ordination with its key South Korean ally.

President Trump’s national security adviser HR McMaster has made it clear that the US has four or five different options for dealing with potential provocations, including a number of military responses.

South Korea President Moon Jae-in has apparently agreed to the recent US bomber and fighter flights, but progressive critics in the South have warned that Seoul lacks any adequate means to compel Washington to consult it before deciding on an appropriate military response.

By acting alone, as they did in the latest sortie, US military forces can advance the White House’s strategic objectives without having to consider the South’s interests – a situation almost certain to maximise fears of alliance de-coupling in Seoul that could damagingly destabilise US-South Korean co-operation.

Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump
President Trump’s intentionally humiliating description of Kim as ‘Little Rocket Man’ will have been perceived in the North as deeply antagonistic. EPA
A statue of Gen Douglas MacArthur overlooks a plaza at the United States Military Academy at West Point (file picture)
Gen Douglas MacArthur boasted that he could push north beyond the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) which divides the two Koreas, reuniting the peninsula without drawing China into the war. GETTY IMAGES

President Moon, both in style and substance, is pursuing an approach to the North that sets him apart from President Trump. While forcefully making the case for deterrence, he has continued to keep the door open to dialogue with the North, approving humanitarian assistance and most recently, in his speech at the UN reinforcing the case for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

On the latter point, he is joined by the Chinese and the Russians, who are increasingly anxious about the risk of escalation. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has backed Beijing’s call for a suspension deal involving a halt to joint US-South Korean military manoeuvres in return for a freeze in the North’s missile and nuclear tests.

However, the suspension deal is a non-starter, given opposition in the US Congress and within the White House. There is, therefore, an urgent need to find an opportunity for renewed discussions to restart diplomacy. For now, there seems little evidence that either the US or the North Koreans are making any serious efforts to talk to one another, either via the conventional channels via the UN, or even in a low-key gathering such as the one brokered in mid-September by the Swiss government in Geneva.

In this context, the onus is on other international leaders to act. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has constructively suggested that a modified version of “Permanent Five” of France, Britain, America, Russia and China (P5) plus 2 [other countries] format used in the Iran talks might be applied to North-East Asia, presumably via a P5 plus 3 variant that might include the EU, South Korea and Japan in co-ordinated talks with North Korea.

In Moscow, the Putin administration is holding talks with Choe Son Hui, head of North Korean foreign ministry’s North American division. Looking ahead to the 18 and 19 October Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, President Moon plans to send a high profile delegation for potentially constructive discussions with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

None of these initiatives is likely to provide a magic bullet for the current crisis, but they may help to slow down the seemingly irresistible progression towards war.

Here, history may act as a useful guide. In December 1950, it was in part the intervention of British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, who announced his plans to travel to Washington to urge the Truman Administration to refrain from using nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, that helped alert the world to the risks of escalation and potentially devastating conflict.

Now is arguably the time for similar interventions from our national leaders, even if the prospects of success are frustratingly limited.

Dr John Nilsson-Wright is Senior Lecturer in Japanese Politics and International Relations, University of Cambridge & Senior Research Fellow for Northeast Asia, Asia Programme, Chatham House.

Deterrence May Be The Answer to the North Korea Dilemma

September 6, 2017
 September 6 at 3:24 AM
TOKYO — If the U.S. attacks North Korea, the world could see another nuclear war. Yet negotiations won’t work — leader Kim Jong Un won’t live up to his promises even if he were to make any. And China — if only it would help more!Those are the sentiments that have produced a collective shrug from many as they watch the North make rapid strides toward developing nuclear missiles capable of striking anywhere in the United States.

But Washington hasn’t tried everything yet.

Below, three experts offer ideas on how the U.S. might get out of its policy box on North Korea.

And none of them require firing a shot.



Deterrence is about making sure your opponent has no good military moves. Kim Jong Un has proven to be pretty good at it.

Vipin Narang, a nuclear strategy and nonproliferation expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, believes U.S. policymakers need to let that sink in.

“Saying that this nuclear program has not augmented or improved North Korea’s ability to deter particular actions, especially regime change or invasion or disarmament, is simply denying reality and putting our head in the sand,” he said.

The good news is deterrence is a game the United States has played before.

“We know how to do this,” he said. “We did it with China and the Soviet Union and managed to reassure West Germany and Europe during the Cold War. There is no logical reason we cannot do it with North Korea. Kim is not crazy or irrational and responds to strategic and domestic incentives.”

Upping the game will require two things Narang believes are now lacking: a coherent and unified message to Pyongyang from President Donald Trump’s administration, and strong, believable reassurances to America’s regional allies.

Along with preventing a U.S. attack, North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile tests are intended to create discord among the U.S., Japan and South Korea — and, though it’s not an American ally — China. If America’s ability to handle North Korea is in doubt, there is more pressure for South Korea and Japan to pursue independent strategies and even consider developing nuclear weapons of their own.

Moreover, the different messages coming from the White House, State Department and Department of Defense — ranging from Trump threatening “fire and fury” to the more conciliatory tone of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — Pyongyang has more incentive to push ahead quickly to either take advantage of what it sees as weakness or bolster its capabilities ahead of what it fears to be a looming invasion.

“So long as this incoherence persists, it becomes very difficult to craft deterrent positions clearly and effectively,” Narang said. “At this point, the way forward it seems to me is to always keep the channel for negotiations open while simultaneously practicing deterrence and reassurance to our allies.”

And maybe one more thing. Tone down the tweets.

“When President Trump tweets the day after the alleged H-bomb test that South Korea should stop ‘appeasement’ of North Korea, Pyongyang can be nothing short of delighted at its strategy working,” Narang said.



Previous efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons have leaned heavily on Beijing, and to a lesser extent Moscow, to enforce sanctions and apply political pressure. It’s an approach Trump seems to support wholeheartedly. Right after the North’s nuclear test Sunday, he tweeted that Pyongyang has become “a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.”

But China’s and Russia’s national interests aren’t the same as Washington’s. Shifting the onus to them for a solution diminishes U.S. leadership and control, said Joel Wit, a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies and a former State Department official who developed strategies to deal with the crisis over North Korea’s weapons program in the 1990s.

“Under the best of circumstances, China can play a supporting role, both in supporting limited pressure on the North and in supporting diplomatic outreach to Pyongyang,” he said. “But it has not and will not do what Washington wants — solve this problem for the United States by creating overwhelming pressure.”

Even if Beijing went along, Wit said it still wouldn’t work: “The North Koreans are not going to roll over and play dead when faced with an existential threat to their regime. They will lash out.”

Wit also said the Trump administration will have “virtually no prospect of securing Chinese cooperation” if it insists that reining in North Korea is mainly a Chinese problem. He believes North Korea is already taking advantage of the growing split between Washington and Beijing to “sprint to the WMD (weapons of mass destruction) finish line.”

He said that instead of pointing fingers, Washington needs to accept that the core problem is between the U.S. and North Korea and firmly take the wheel.

“The idea that this is the land of no good options leads everyone to move on,” he said. “Almost every foreign policy challenge facing the U.S. could be called the same thing. But this fatalistic attitude has permeated U.S. policy for over a decade and has led us to where we are today.”



If the U.S. is going to get what it wants, it has to know what it wants. And it will probably need to give up something to get it.

John Delury, an associate professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, believes the most realistic path forward involves three steps: “dialogue, negotiation, settlement.”

“Without talking to Kim Jong Un or his senior advisers, we just don’t know who we are dealing with, what their positions are, what we can give them that they really want, and what we can get in return. That moves us into the negotiation, for short-term steps that reduce risks, decrease hostility, even build a little confidence.”

Washington’s focus should be clear and specific. Negotiators should push for a missile and nuclear test moratorium, a freeze on the production of nuclear weapons, the return of nuclear inspectors and increased transparency. There must also be nonproliferation commitments.

Delury stresses there must also be some give and take.

“For these things, things that are in U.S. interests, the Trump administration, in close consultation with Seoul and Tokyo, will have to consider what it is willing to do, or forego,” he said.

Pyongyang says it wants some sort of security guarantee and the removal of the U.S. nuclear threat from the Korean Peninsula. Neither would seem to be a good starter topic, but another item on Pyongyang’s list — scaling back or canceling the U.S. military’s annual wargames with the South — might be an area the two could at least talk about.

In the longer term, Delury says, the U.S. must directly address “the true heart of the matter, which is working on a political settlement” that fundamentally transforms the U.S.-North Korea relationship.

“Let’s call those ‘peace talks,’ for lack of a better phrase,” he said.

Technically, the countries have remained at war since 1953, when an armistice rather than a peace treaty ended fighting in the Korean War.

Delury said negotiations “should also involve a heavy dose of economic cooperation, since the only alternative to the status quo that might appeal to Kim Jong Un is a North Korea that is not only secure, but also prosperous.”

The hope is that more political and economic engagement would over time prompt the North to ease its authoritarian controls. But the negotiation process would undoubtedly be fraught with ambivalence and resistance on both sides.

“It’s true there are no easy answers, no quick fixes, no silver bullets,” he said. “Even if we made a determined effort to improve the relationship, it would be hard and slow going.

“So being realistic about dealing with North Korea is prudent. But the current level of fatalism is counterproductive to coming up with a better approach.”


Talmadge has been the AP’s Pyongyang bureau chief since 2013. Follow him on Twitter at EricTalmadge and on Instagram @erictalmadge.

Philippine President Duterte Promises To Continue War on Drugs — Average of nine alleged drug suspects killed daily in the Philippines

July 24, 2017
Residents and police gather near the blanket-covered body of a man killed, along with four others, in an alleged police anti-drug operation in Manila, Philippines Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. Authorities said 3,200 alleged drug personalities have died in police operations from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017. AP Photo/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — In his second State of the Nation Address on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte reiterated his vow to continue his controversial war on drugs campaign.

Duterte said the crackdown against illegal drugs will continue because for him it is “the root cause of evil.” This was despite several criticisms received from both local and international human rights groups.
“The fight against illegal drugs will be unrelenting. Despite international and local pressures, the fight will not stop until those who deal in it understand that they have to cease, they have to stop because the alternative is either jail or hell,” Duterte said in his SONA speech with the theme of “comfortable life for all.”
The president said he does not intend to lose the fight against illegal drugs while he shrugged off human rights and due process concerns.
Duterte said that instead of condemning the authorities and blaming the government for every killing in this country, his critics should just use their authority to educate the public about illegal narcotics.
“To the critics against the fight [against illegal drugs], your efforts will be better spent if you use the influence, moral authority and ascendancy of your organizations over your respective sectors to educate the people on the evil of illegal drugs,” Duterte said.
“Don’t get me wrong, I value human life the way I value mine,” he added.
A total of 3,200 alleged drug personalities have died in police operations from July 1, 2016 to June 20, 2017. On average, nine alleged drug suspects were killed daily during the eleven-month period.
The United States Congress last Thursday conducted a hearing into the human rights consequences of the war on drugs in the Philippines.
In his first year in office, Duterte received several criticisms even from international leaders. He threatened to cut ties with nations which criticized his war on drugs including the European Union and the United States under former President Barack Obama.
Despite this, Duterte continued his call on the public to join his crackdown against drugs.
“That is why I ask you to join me in this fight against illegal drugs and all forms of criminality. The government equipped with legal authority and your moral ascendancy over the sector you represent can do so much and hopefully eradicates the social scourge that plagues us to no end,” he added.


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Credit: Raffy Lerma—Philippine Daily Inquirer

 (Contains links to several related articles)

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Discarded — The body of a dead Filipino girl — killed in President Duterte’s war on drugs — looks like it has been put out with the trash….. Presidential spokeman Abella said the war on drugs is for the next generation of Filipinos.