Thursday, April 4, 2013

North Korea - what we're doing/should be doing

As I argued a few days ago (here and here), it's evident that the Obama Administration is concerned by the renewed threats coming from North Korea. From what we know so far, the US response has involved heavy bomber show of force flights, the deployment of an advanced missile defense system to Guam and the staging of US Navy Aegis BMD equipped destroyers (advanced missile defense systems) into the waters surrounding North Korea. It's also extremely likely that the US is refocusing significant image, signal and measurement intelligence assets towards North Korea. The objective - to know more about North Korea's intentions and capabilities, and to deter and defeat any North Korean aggression.

But I also believe that two others steps are now necessary. 

First, now that Kim Jong-Un has explicitly threatened to use nuclear weapons against the United States (for two weeks), President Obama needs to issue standing orders to the US Military. The President should order US forces to down any launched North Korean missile which threatens US or allied assets. Essentially, if a North Korean missile is heading towards Guam or Japan - shoot it down. That might seem obvious, but until now we've allowed the North Koreans to fire missiles over Japanese territory and towards Guam with impunity. That dynamic has to come to an end.

Second, as I argued a couple of weeks back, President Obama needs to issue a robust public statement on North Korea. My suggestion - 

In the event of an attack by agents or proxies of the North Korean state against our allies, the United States will render full spectrum support to our ally. Further, any nuclear attack, or attempted nuclear attack, against the United States or South Korea, by agents or proxies of the North Korean state, will be met by nuclear retaliation from the United States.

North Korea must understand that nuclear poker serves them no positive interest. They have bad cards and we know it. They know that we know, but they like to think that we lack the courage to stand up to them and thus that we pretend we don't know. As a result, Kim Jong-Un thinks that he can make us blink.

My older piece for The Guardian - Washington's message to Pyongyang


  1. They have the ace of spades - nuclear weapons.. why else is the regime still in place..

    1. I would say it's a King. The Ace would be a complete nuclear security umbrella. Which they don't have.