North Korea’s nukes test Trump, China resolve

North Korea’s nukes test Trump, China resolve, by Greg Sheridan.

If the Americans and Chinese cannot prevent this hyper-Stalinist gangster state from possessing the full range of nuclear weapons and missiles, and brazenly producing, as Pyongyang says, as many nukes as it wants to, then all hope of long-term strategic co-operation and stability is gone. …

More recently, [Trump has] said “talking is not the answer” and US military forces were “locked and loaded” to respond to North Korea. …

The Americans have had ­detailed, active, pre-emptive strike plans to hit North Korea since at least the early 1990s. In the end, every president who has considered it has decided the risks of such a move are too great. But there has always been a minority view within the Pentagon that it could conduct a limited strike on specific nuclear facilities and convince North Korea not to launch a ­suicidal, all-out war in response.

This is given extra weight by a fascinating analysis delivered in a speech in Stockholm last week by former prime minister Kevin Rudd, who as a young diplomat in Beijing once had responsibility for relations with North Korea.

Rudd argues that although the US system is painfully aware of all the dangers in striking North Korea, it is wrong to think that such a strike is impossible.

He cites two reasons for this: the US desire not to allow Kim to threaten US cities with nuclear-armed ICBMs, and the personal factors surrounding Trump.

Rudd said the chances of major conflict on the Korean peninsula had risen from about 5 per cent to 20-25 per cent. He presents a witheringly pessimistic view of China’s likely behaviour. …

But Rudd argues that while ­Beijing does not approve of Pyongyang’s behaviour, it believes a nuclear-armed North Korea is a vastly greater problem for the US than it is for China. North Korea still provides strategic benefits to China, such as by putting the US’s Asian alliances under strain.

Beijing also, in Rudd’s view, has come to the realist judgment that the US won’t strike North Korea and that neither Japan nor South Korea will embark on a program to acquire nuclear weapons.

So the US will just have to learn to live with a nuclear North Korea, and if that involves humiliation for the US, so be it.

hat-tip Stephen Neil