‘There is no military option for US and N.Korea, both sides are posturing’
President Trump responded to the reported improved missile capabilities of the DPRK by saying “All options are on the table,” refusing to rule out military options signaling a possible US military escalation.
RT America’s Anya Parampil spoke to national security policy analyst, investigative journalist Gareth Porter to discuss his latest article “Can the US and North Korea move from threats to negotiations?” and the possibility of further military escalation and even confrontation between the US and the "hermit kingdom."
RT: It was reported earlier this month in The Washington Post that DPRK is making missile-ready nuclear weapons, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency. Should we accept these reports as fact amidst this escalation?
Gareth Porter: No, not necessarily at all. The best estimate from those who are outside the government, who are experienced and have no ax to grind is that they are not close to being able to do that. That doesn't mean they can't ever do it. But we are not at that point at this stage.
RT: You write in your recent analysis “the Kim Jong-un regime seems to have sought to use missile launches as signals to the Trump administration to convey not only North Korea's determination not to give in to pressure, but also its hopes to stabilize the situation and avoid further escalation in US-North Korea military relations.” Missile launches in hopes to stabilize might sound counterintuitive to some, can you explain?
GP: Exactly, I know, you're right. Because the news media has not done its job at all in covering this whole sequence of events and has merely presented the situation as one of the North Koreans threatening the United States, and Trump firing back and threatening to go to war with them. We've lost the reality in the background of this, that neither side really has a military option. It is simply not realistic for either side, and they know it.
The United States has not had a military option with regard to North Korea for many years. That's because Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is only 26 miles away from the North Korean border from the 38th parallel, and the North Koreans have 8,000 artillery pieces trained on the capital and could decimate, more than decimate, they could destroy a large part of the capital, and as many as 200,000 Americans living in the environs of Seoul. This is a pretty strong incentive for the United States not to try a military option against North Korea.
And the North Koreans, on the other hand, know perfectly well they have been destroyed almost completely by American bombs - by firebombing in 1950 by the United States. And they know perfectly well that they are totally vulnerable to US nuclear weapons, as well as conventional weapons. They're not going to do anything like that either. So both sides are posturing. This is very clear: the North Koreans are posturing in order to try to get the United States to sit down with them without preconditions so that they can try to get some concessions from the United States, specifically to end the Korean War. The state of war has never ended between the United States and North Korea. That's the primary thing they want. But they also want to have normal relations with the United States.
RT: You covered negotiations concerning Iran's nuclear program quite closely. What lessons from that diplomatic success story, do you think, can be applied to this situation?
GP: I would sort of back up a couple of steps and say the lesson of US relations diplomatically, or non-diplomatic relations with Iran for so many years, is diplomatically that the United States has a dominance problem. We've had a dominance problem both during the early period of the Cold War when there was no real balance of forces between the United States and the Soviet Union or the Communist world. And then after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when there was what they call the unipolar moment. Since that moment the United States government, the security state if you will, has believed very profoundly that nothing prevents the United States from forcing smaller, weaker countries to come to heel and there are three cases in particular that everybody knows about Iraq, North Korea, and Iran.
In the case of Iraq, we know what happened: the axis of evil. The United States invaded and occupied and in the process destabilized the entire Middle East; in the case of Iran the United States has threatened to go to war, finally came around to negotiating something under Obama. In the case of North Korea, they have not yet summoned the political will to go that far. But the problem is with the fundamental understanding or misunderstanding of the US national security state is that it doesn't have to practice diplomacy with smaller weaker powers. The fact is that those smaller weaker powers have the ability to resist.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.