U.S. options on North Korea fading fast: Indian general

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By Major General S B Asthana (India)

President Donald Trump says he doesn’t want to waste time on dictator Kim Jong Un, and that indicates that U.S. options are dwindling at a fast pace.

Here are several possible scenarios that could play out.

Scenario 1:  North Korea attacks a U.S. base in Japan. That option is suicidal and will definitely see an end of Kim’s regime, as well as lead to the total destruction of North Korea. But North Korea’s whole reason for pursuing nuclear technology in the first place was to safeguard of his regime against the U.S. That scenario may also trigger a semi world war, which would escalate and be hard to control. I am sure that all concerned including Kim Jong Un’s regime will like to avoid this, so this this option is highly unlikely.

Scenario 2.  The status quo prevails with both sides, along with increased sanctions, and U.S. keeps trying for diplomatic negotiations, without being seen to be compromising. It’s a likely option, at least for the time being, until Trump visits Asia next month.

A spoiler to this option could be some more nuclear or missile tests by North Korea. In light of the “not to waste time” advice of Trump to his Secretary of State, there seems to be some problem in pursuing this option.

Scenario 3.  North Korea continues with the missile tests, it accidentally hits some asset or ship of the U.S. or its allies. The U.S. uses the incident as a trigger and fires conventional weapons to destroy North Korean nuclear facilities. The dangers of Scenario 1 are equally applicable in this case, but the likelihood is more than Scenario 1.

Scenario 4.  The U.S. mentally accepts that North Korea has become a nuclear state, and it’s too late to reverse its status. This scenario may force Japan to go nuclear, despite its sentiments to the contrary, because of its past experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. South Korea does not want war on the Korean Peninsula. It is looking for better nuclear shield and technology, and may also want to have tactical nuclear arsenal from the U.S.

There are other scenarios as well:

  • It is too late to convince North Korea to give away its nuclear program. A nuclear tipped, missile capable North Korea is a reality.
  • Strict sanctions may be a small effort to put pressure on North Korea, but must be sincerely implemented by all to prevent a major crisis.
  • No one wants to initiate war, but it will continue to be a flashpoint prone to accidental triggers.
  • Providing protective hardware, technology, fighting capability to its allies is a must for the U.S. to provide credibility to its Military alliance.
  • Further provocation by North Korea may encourage others neighbours to go nuclear.
  • Diplomatic talks are unavoidable. A face-saving methodology to move ahead may have to be found.
  • If no action is taken against North Korea, the world may have to live with the problem of nuclear blackmail, as a result of not taking timely action.

Let us see what President Trump brings on the table when he visits Asia next month.

An Infantry General with 38 years of Defense experience at national and international level, Major General S B Asthana has held various key appointments in India’s Army and the UN during his military carrier. He has twice received awards from the president of India, and twice by UN. The views expressed are of the author and do not represent views of any organization.

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