Wednesday, April 19, 2017

April 19, 2017--Crazy-Fat-Kid

That's how John McCain last week referred to Kim Jong-un, president of North Korea.

It's understandable that Senator McCain would be feeling frustrated. Most American are. Kim may be crazy or crazy like a fox, but it is indisputable that he is a very dangerous threat to peace in the region. And then some.

Even the Chinese finally seem to be taking the situation seriously. Until now they have been his principal "ally," largely responsible for propping up the collapsed economy of North Korea through their involvement in multiple trade deals that are of sustaining benefit to the North Korean leadership class.

Perhaps because of coming to some sort of agreement to work together during Chinese president Xi Jinping's visit with Donald Trump two weeks ago in Palm Beach, or because the Chinese are concerned that Trump is a crazy-fat-president and might, if provoked, decide to bomb North Korea's nuclear facilities and missile delivery systems. This would mean all-out, possible nuclear war on the Korean peninsular, resulting in millions of refugees crossing the Yalu River to seek sanctuary in China.

The Chinese crave stability and predictability and Trump represents neither and so they may be taking the lead to see if there is a way forward, out of this unfolding doomsday scenario.

I do not think of Kim as leading a suicide cult. War would likely mean we would go after him and his elite followers--the one's who get fancy uniforms, electricity, cars, and food to eat. They and he like living and have many of the good things life offers. And they are not ideological. Fanatical, yes, but in a materialistic way that suggests they might be more interested in living and enhancing their national stature than going down in martyrs' flames. We saw that with the Japanese during World War II, but Korea is no Japan.

If Kim and his followers desire recognition perhaps we should move carefully to begin to provide that as part of a deal that would have them, under Chinese monitoring, begin to phase out their nuclear program. Muammar al-Gaddafi did this is Libya, surprising many who thought he would never agree to such a thing. He saw the writing on the wall and din't want to be obliterated. Of course he eventually was, but that's another story.

During the campaign Trump said he would be willing to meet with Kim Jong-un to see if a deal is possible. Kim might jump at this chance. It would have to be after a number of other conditions were agreed to to test Kim's seriousness. The process would not begin with a Kim-Trump summit but would be a reward when the two parties were, say, halfway to an agreement.

When Barack Obama said during the 2008 campaign that in pursuit of peace he would be willing to meet face-to-face with Iranian leaders, Hillary Clinton's mocked him, claiming he was naive and suggested this demonstrated that he was unsuited to serve as commander in chief. But then, during his first term, Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, worked hard behind the scenes to bring this about. A year or two later, with John Kerry having replaced her, the U.S. and Iran made a deal and as of today much of Iran's nuclear weapons program has been shut down. It is not perfect (as Trump took relish in pointing out almost daily during the campaign) but so far we are not at war with the Iranians. And, as a demonstration that Trump may not always act impulsively, he has not (yet) abrogated the treaty.

My scenario may be a stretch, but most analysts who attempt to understand what is going on in North Korea and what Kim is thnking are feeling pessimistic. The New York Times has concluded that we are moving to a confrontation similar to the one the world faced during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But this time with a potentially unstable leader on one side.

It is generally agreed that it will be two to three years before the North Koreans develop the missiles and miniaturized atomic warheads to reach South Korea, Japan, and the west coast of the U.S. But as they are moving inexorably and rapidly in this direction, we need to figure out how to make a deal well before then that provides at least some enhanced sense of security.

Otherwise . . .

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