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‘US threats encourage N. Korea to accelerate its weapons program’

‘US threats encourage N. Korea to accelerate its weapons program’
President Trump is painting himself into a corner by saying talks with North Korea are not the answer, said Gregory Elich of the Korea Policy Institute. That makes Pyongyang intensify its weapons program, which encourages Trump to up the ante, he added.

The US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised a "massive military response" to North Korea, should there be an attack against the US or its allies.

Earlier, North Korean state television announced the successful test of a hydrogen bomb.

RT: How concerned are you by the situation on the Korean Peninsula?

Gregory Elich: I am quite concerned, and I am not alone in that. I met with some peace activists, who are here in the US visiting from South Korea. They have lived for decades under the tension between the US and North Korea, and they consider that right now is the most dangerous moment they have seen in their lives. I have to share that opinion with them.

Unfortunately, I think the Trump administration is painting itself into a corner. For instance, Trump recently twitted that talks are not the answer. That just leaves the option of threatening North Korea which only encourages North Korea to accelerate its weapons program, which in turn encourages the Trump administration to up the ante on its threats. So it is a very dangerous moment.

RT: Do you think Pyongyang wants war? Or do they feel they are developing defensive measures against an external threat?

GE: I don’t think North Korea wants war. Obviously the US far-outstrips - in military capability, and there is no doubt about the outcome if war were to break out. North Korea has consistently said they’re developing their nuclear weapon program as a purely defensive measure. They have seen what happened in Yugoslavia, Libya, and Iraq in recent years. They’ve considered that only a nuclear weapons program can prevent an attack from the US. The Korean central news agency just recently came out with a statement saying they are not willing to give up their nuclear weapons program unless the US drops its hostile policies. So there is a definite opening for a diplomatic move if the US wanted it to take that.

RT: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US is ready for a military response. Why do you think the Trump administration persists with threats of military action when all we see is more tests by North Korea?

GE: It is sheer pigheadedness. I don’t think the Trump administration is capable of a nuanced analysis of the situation, and they consider threats as a diplomatic solution or a diplomatic approach. And it is not diplomacy whatsoever – it is just more threats.

RT: During his conversation with Japan's prime minister, President Trump reportedly said the US is ready to use all possible means to defend itself, including nuclear capabilities. How likely is it that the US would use nuclear weapons against North Korea?

GE: I think it is very unlikely. I think the world reaction would be so outraged, that they would basically take that off the table. It doesn’t make the situation different considering the fire power of the US military is so immense that it could basically carry out a similar type of destruction with few conventional means.

‘Fear N. Korea possess overwhelmingly powerful conventional forces could prevent attack'

The main threat that would prevent an attack on North Korea isn’t the fear of it using nuclear weapons; it is the fear that it has powerful forces, particularly in terms of ordinary conventional artillery, said Charles Shoebridge, a security analyst.

RT: Recently Senator Lindsey Graham said if there was a conflict with North Korea, the North Koreans would fire missiles upon South Korea, possibly Japan and that thousands of people would die, that the US would be doing all of the damage upon North Korea. What do you think are the actual capabilities of North Korea at the moment?

Charles Shoebridge: … Senator Graham has been one of those that have been more hawkish in saying that although that would happen if there were a war then American should still consider that because there would be thousands of deaths as he put it, and the responsibility of that would lie with North Korea.

At the moment the situation is that, although North Korea poses a threat to its near neighbors, it has just demonstrated - it would appear - a greatly increased capability in terms of the yield of its nuclear weapons. It claims this weapon is small enough to be placed on a long-range missile, an ICBM [Intercontinental ballistic missile] – that could presumably reach, as we know from the previous tests, that missiles can reach Japan; possibly could reach targets including Guam and places like that of American interest in the Pacific.

…That militarization claim has not yet been proven. But undoubtedly in the relatively near future that will become true. As time goes on, North Korea, if it is a threat, becomes more of the threat to a greater number of countries. In a way ironically the main threat that is preventing, or would prevent an attack on these facilities and on North Korea generally isn’t necessarily the fear of it using nuclear weapons, it is the fear that has long been in place; that it has such overwhelmingly powerful conventional forces, particularly in terms of ordinary conventional artillery – that if America attacked, there would be retaliation – not necessarily against America in the first instance, but that could be absolute devastation wrought not just on South Korea, but also on the capital itself, that could kill many tens of thousands. It could be that is what Graham is talking about, rather than the specific nuclear threat of retaliation that undoubtedly it will become more apparent in the future.


The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.