Fake news about Korea?

Well, the predictions of imminent war with North Korea were certainly premature:

Toward the end of last week [i.e. the week of April 10], the world was on edge and anticipating a conflict on the Korean peninsula, but talk of war appears to have been a product of miscommunication and media hype.

As tensions were rising, a U.S. Navy carrier strike group was believed to be moving into waters off Korea, and Pyongyang was suspected of preparing for another nuclear test. As it turns out, the carrier was sailing in the opposite direction, and North Korea was preparing for a parade and a failed ballistic missile test.

The strike group was last spotted off Indonesia, over 3,000 miles from the Korean peninsula, Defense News reported Tuesday.

This calls for another Department of Defense acronym. Say hello to MILDEC (military deception):

But the impression of what the Navy likes to call “4-and-a-half-acres of sovereign U.S. territory”—that would be the flight deck of a Nimitz-class carrier like the Vinson—steaming toward the Sea of Japan at flank speed might help stay the hand of someone like Kim Jong-un. It could distract him and his military while minimizing the risk of escalation. […]

The Pentagon, always leery of being spanked by the White House, quickly committed ritual rhetorical hari-kari for its sin. “We communicated this badly,” one defense official told the Wall Street Journal. Similar mea culpas echoed in other media outlets, showing that a chagrined Pentagon had learned its lesson.

Except for one thing. What’s amazing is that the press, hoodwinked as it was by the Pentagon’s fakery, was so eager to gobble up the morning-after line that it was all an innocent snafu, wrought by miscommunication and confusion.

Yea, right.

What is really going on? Here’s a compelling on read on what increasingly appears to be a crafty geopolitical strategy, with Rodrigo “This will be your final Merry Christmas” Duterte as pawn:

The Giant Panda can eliminate the problem that is Kim Jong Un.

ASEAN Chairman, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, modifying the confrontational tone of Asian nations toward China is yet another useful carrot by U.S. President Trump to stimulate China’s increased pressure upon North Korea.

That’s a really big ‘get’ for President Xi Jinping.

MILDEC and geopolitical 4D chess notwithstanding, things could still get very kinetic on the Korean peninsula. Here’s a good discussion on the possibilities by ChinaFile. Comment from Bruce Klingner:

Since 2006, there have been numerous media articles with titles such as “Chinese anger signals policy shift toward North Korea.” Similarly, there have been periodic assurances by overoptimistic U.S. diplomats that China now “got it,” was on board with U.S. objectives, and would adopt a tougher policy toward North Korea.

Perhaps President Trump’s efforts, combined with growing regional fear of North Korea’s growing capabilities and belligerence, will be the catalyst to induce long-hoped for Chinese pressure on Pyongyang. Or, Trump may join the long line of American presidents duped into believing Chinese promises.

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UPDATE: The POTUS confirms that the kinetic option for dealing with North Korea is still very much on the table:

“There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview ahead of his 100th day in office on Saturday.

Nonetheless, Trump said he wanted to peacefully resolve a crisis that has bedeviled multiple U.S. presidents, a path that he and his administration are emphasizing by preparing a variety of new economic sanctions while not taking the military option off the table.

“We’d love to solve things diplomatically but it’s very difficult,” he said.

 

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