- Date published:
9:00 am, April 16th, 2017 - 89 comments
Categories: afghanistan, International, us politics, war - Tags: donald trump, north korea, nuclear arms, nuclear deterrence, nuclear disarmament
During the 1980s when another madman was in control of the Whitehouse I always had a foreboding of the future in a Terminator sort of way. The prospects of nuclear war seemed so likely. The Americans and the Russians had armed themselves to the teeth and their relationship was poor. And it all seemed so insane. As David Lange famously said all the super powers were doing was refining an existing capacity to make the rubble bounce and bounce.
Lange and the fourth Labour Government played their part by declaring that New Zealand would be nuclear weapon free. Twenty two years later and this declaration holds firm despite National’s private wish to see it gone by lunchtime.
And the Soviet Union’s economic implosion meant that the arms race was called off. One of the many criticisms of the arms race, that it would bankrupt us all, proved to be correct at least in part.
But the world has recently tripped into a terrible state again where if anything a nuclear exchange seems to be even more likely than it was in the dark years of the 1980s.
There is a madman in the White House, someone displaying the control and sensitivity of a 12 year old boy who has forgotten to take his daily dose of Ritalin. He has the nuclear launch codes under his control. And he has been flashing them around like a brand new golf driver that he has recently bought.
North Korea is Trump’s bogeyman just as the Soviet Union was Ronald Regan’s. But the differences are considerable. North Korea is a tiny failing state run by a dictator with a marginal nuclear presence, perhaps five Hiroshima quality bombs whereas the Soviet Union was a major state able to compete with the United States on its own terms.
North Korea is a perfect test case to allow the United Nations to exercise powers under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. There should be a collective response based on the international rule of law.
Trump’s recent testosterone driven dropping of the mother of all bombs on a cave structure in Afghanistan shows what he is capable of. Weirdly the caves are the same ones used by the US backed Mujahideen who successfully fought the Soviets in the 1970s and 1980s (corrected). The United States ought to realise that undermining a local society even if purportedly based on good intentions can have disastrous effects.
And the tension is rising. From the Guardian:
China has urged the US and North Korea to step back from the brink of a potentially catastrophic conflict after Pyongyang warned it would not “keep its arms crossed” in the event of a pre-emptive strike.
Speaking in Beijing on Friday, the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, told reporters the region faced a “precarious situation” in which “one has the feeling that a conflict could break out at any moment”.
He made his plea before an anticipated sixth North Korean nuclear test on Saturday to mark the birth of the country’s founder, Kim Il-sung.
“We call on all parties to refrain from provoking and threatening each other, whether in words or actions, and not to let the situation get to an irreversible and unmanageable stage,” Wang said, according to Xinhua, China’s official news agency.
“If a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner. It is not the one who espouses harsher rhetoric or raises a bigger fist that will win.”
North Korea despite its puny status is not holding back. Paradoxically the threat of taking out its nuclear capability may make its use of its weapons more likely.
North Korea’s vice-foreign minister, Han Song-ryol, earlier warned it would not “keep its arms crossed” in the event of a pre-emptive US strike and would conduct a nuclear test when it saw fit.
Han told the Associated Press in an interview in Pyongyang that Donald Trump’s “aggressive” tweets aimed at the regime were “causing trouble”, adding that the mounting crisis on the peninsula was locked in a “vicious cycle”.
And it could be happening soon.
Experts believe Pyongyang could defy Trump by carrying out a missile launch or nuclear test to coincide with the so-called Day of the Sun on 15 April, commemorating the birth of the country’s founder. Satellite imagery has revealed signs of preparations for a possible nuclear test in a new tunnel complex at the Punggye-ri military site.
Trump needs to hold back and breathe through his nose. There are multiple more peaceful ways of dealing with North Korea. A preemptive strike that may tip it over into attacking Seoul and maybe even Tokyo is not the thing a wise leader of the United States.
This should almost make everyone nostalgic for Hillary. At least she was sane …