WASHINGTON: The United States and its allies in East Asia are stumbling towards a conflagration in the region after North Korea’s audacious nuclear tests forced the Trump administration to take a tougher, ever-hardening stance against an unblinking Pyongyang.
“Enough is enough! We have kicked the can down the road long enough. There is no more road left,” US representative at the UN Nikki Haley said during an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Monday, hours after US President Donald Trump cryptically responded with a ‘we’ll see’ when asked if the US would attack North Korea. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, Haley said, is ‘begging for war.’
Haley left the slightest crack in the door open for negotiations, saying, among other things, “The time has come to exhaust all of our diplomatic means before it is too late” and “War is never something the United States wants. We don’t want it now.”
“But our country’s patience is not unlimited,” she warned Kim. “We will defend our allies and our territory.”
After Trump conferred with his cabinet principals, it was left to US defense secretary Jim Mattis to say that the US will launch a ‘massive military response’ to any threats from North Korea, a warning that left Pyongyang unimpressed as it was reported to be preparing for more missile tests on the path to validating claims that it could hit the United States with its ICMBs and that it had miniaturized its nuclear weapons to fit on to long range missiles.
The claims, and Sunday’s massive nuclear test, has left western experts slack-jawed and shaken considering it took countries such as India, with a deeper and larger scientific, technical, and industrial base, many decades to master the technologies.
All eyes are now focused on China, widely seen as a patron and enabler of North Korea’s advances. Trump has alternately pleaded, taunted, cajoled, and threatened Beijing to bring North Korea to heel, but Pyongyang is now perceived as being out control.
Amid the shaky solidarity of BRICS, where India and China began smoothing their frayed ties, Beijing had the mortification of being warned by Trump that it risked a trade sanction because of its continued patronage of North Korea.
No one expects Trump to seriously carry out his threat. A trade war between US and China, with a $ 450 billion balance of trade heavily tilted towards Beijing, will have immense fall-out on the global economy, not to speak of undermining Trump’s own business empire and products such as neckties and handbags, as trolls and critics cheekily pointed out with memes on social media.
Some analysts have argued that even Trump’s war threats carry no credibility, given North Korea’s ability to incinerate Seoul and other South Korean cities that also help the US and global economy humming with its supply of semi-conductors, mobile telephones, and consumer electronics.
British foreign secretary Boris Johnson was among those who maintained that war is not the answer. “None of the military options are good. It is of course right to say that all options are on the table, but we really don’t see an easy military solution,” he said, pointing out that North Korea could easily vaporize South Korea’s Miracle on the Han River – as its fantastic economic success is dubbed — even without nuclear weapons.
North Korea’s audacious ‘big bang’ nuclear test has also widened the chasm between the United States and China, a rift that has been papered over by a Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) situation in the trade sphere. After Trump threatened to cut off trade with countries that deal with North Korea, Beijing, which was not explicitly named, called the statement ‘unacceptable and unfair.’
At the UN Security Council meetings, convened by the US and its allies, China was distinctly isolated.