When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?
John Maynard Keynes
When I post on foreign policy issues, I often make educated guesses about US capabiities, or the capabilties of other countries; and I do so based on my decades of study on the issue. Of course, I don't have access to any classified information, so I do infer the intents and natures of various otherwise secrets of national security.
This is what I did on my last posting about North Korea. In listening to an interview with John Pike on Ian Masters Background Briefing, I found Mr. Pike making assertions that directly contradict statements I made in my last blog. Here are his assertions regarding North Korea, highlighted in bold:
North Korea does have an ICBM that has nuclear capabilities. It could launch a strike against Hawaii. I said that the DPRK does not have this capabiity. So far in missle tests, North Korea has never sent a missle all the way to the South Pacific. It is possible that the DPRK has capability for a medium range missle with a nuke on it. Such a missle could reach Japan. However, it is extremely hard to envision what circumstances would prompt the DPRK to launch a missle like this against Japan.
The United States did not apply a direct energy weapon against the DPRK missle launced last week. I said otherwise. Wise says Kim Jong Un launched an old, unreliable liquid fuel rocket to reduce his missle inventory. It is highly likely that future anticipated launches in the near term will also be of this kind. The liquid fuel rockets used often do blow up shortly after launch. And the revelations that the US naval task force is currently off the coast of Indonesia strengthens this assertion.
Iran has been cooperating on joint development of missle and nuclear capabilities in North Korea for some time. This was a total surprise to me, since the 5+1 countries appear to be fully satisfied with Iran's compliance on non-proliferation. If there is any truth to this, it would be an extremely dangerous situation since it could lead to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States would have a powerful incentive to develop their own nuclear weapons.
And according to Wise, The US and Israel did not succeed in placing the Stuxnet computer malware into the Iranian nuclear program. The fable of Stuxnet was actually a piece of disinformation that slowed the Iranian (and potentially Korean nuclear programs) due to paranoia.
If John Wise's findings are to be taken seriously, this actually puts the North Korean crisis into a much more dangerous and darker scenario. A North Korean nuke capable of hitting Japan could encourage Japan to quickly become a nuclear power, and would encourage South Korea to develop its own nuclear weapon. Nuclear proliferation in East Asia would make the world that much more on a knife's edge. And Iranian involvement inside the DPRK on nuclear weapon and missle development could vastly increase the threat of nuclear war in the Middle East.
In the case of Mr. Wise's findings, this shows the problems of depending on non-classified sources of information. His conclusions lead to much bleaker scenarios as far as world peace and the situation in Korea. But ultimately, the current Korean crisis has led to worldwide confusion and befuddlement regarding the actions of Donald Trump.
I have been trying to follow the Chinese reactions to the current crisis, as I believe that the PRC is the most critical player. Going back to the good cop / bad cop scenario that I laid out before, it would be possible for the Chinese to take the lead in the matter after a while. But what I've found is that Chinese officials are as bewildered as anyone else on the warlike pronouncements coming from Der Trumpster. Mike Pence's visit to Seoul appeared to be high-handed, totally disregarding the feelings of the South Koreans. And in his visit to Tokyo, the Japanese put extreme pressure on the US to take a cooperative, subsidiary role to the Chinese.
The ultimate problem appears to be the ego problem of the Commander-in-Chief. His aggressive warmongering leaves him no room to climb down the pole he's scampered up on. Perhaps Mr. Trump will be able to reverse his position in a nanosecond, claiming that he had always been planning to go the way the Chinese and others had directed him to.
But if Mr. Trump finds himself incapable of eating crow, then the probability of a nuclear exchange would be quite high.
The irony of the whole situation is, that the United States could probably effect a regime change by appearing to totally appease and surrender to North Korean demands. If US diplomats were to appear at the Panmunjong in that conference room that straddles the Koreas, and were to offer a peace treaty ending the Korean War and giving full diplomatic and trade relations with the DPRK -- it is highly likely that the Kim regime would quickly implode, as since its founding the Kim regime has been founded on total war and only war with the US and Korea.
Is Donald Trump smart enough to know that there is victory in defeat, and defeat in victory for North Korea? We'll find out soon enough.