North Korea: ‘War is Preventable’

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Of course, maybe Lebanon is the relevant topic, or the overall results of the visit that the U.S. President has paid to Asia in the last week would similarly cover the attempt to select the events that have top visibility in international news.

Especially since D. Trump, in his typical style, which may be the delight of foreign affairs experts, recent wrote on Twitter, attacking The New York Times: “I have developed a great relationship with World leaders like Xi Jinping, President of China. They [NYT] should realize that these relationships are a good thing, not a bad thing. The U.S. is being respected again. Watch Trade!”, promising an ample debate on U.S. foreign policy. However, we selected another event which, albeit starting long ago, is developing in a way that keeps it even now at the forefront of the international politics scene, being closely linked to the U.S. President’s visit to China.

We are talking about the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, where the North Korean communist regime has set out to pose a major challenge for the international community by periodically carrying out ballistic missile and nuclear tests this year. As known, Pyongyang even threatened to hit U.S. territory, which in recent months has resulted in Washington’s firm reply.

Of course, this issue was discussed by President Trump during his visit last week to China, the country he repeatedly encouraged to use its influence over the North Korean communist regime to peacefully solve the mentioned crisis. If we are to resort to President Trump’s Twitter account, we could deem that his presence in Beijing and the words with which he described the results of the visit – On November 9 he wrote: “My meetings with President Xi Jinping were very productive on both trade and the subject of North Korea. He is a highly respected and powerful representative of his people. It was great being with him and Madame Peng Liyuan!”; and two days later: “President Xi of China has stated that he is upping the sanctions against #NoKo. Said he wants them to denuclearize. Progress is being made.” – foreshadow positive developments in this regard.

The surprise is even greater when one notices that, within the community of international relations experts the possibility of a different denouement to the crisis is also being discussed, against this optimistic backdrop. Starting from a tweet posted by President Trump during his trip to Asia – “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ’old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’ Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!” (November 11) – it was mentioned that on the same day, at Harvard, two experts – one of them an editorialist for The New York Times (N. Kristoff), the other for The New Yorker – gave a lecture on the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula and on the Presidential Twitter account. Somebody noted that: “By coincidence, @NickKristof & @eosnos both spoke at Harvard today. Each said US & NK are closer to war than most people think. Iraq redux.” Moreover, N. Kristoff pointed out on his Twitter account how he understands the Presidential tweet of November 11, which refers to the North Korean leader: “Translation: Maybe Kim Jong-un and I will have a nuclear war. Or maybe we’ll play golf.” Curiosity prompted other experts to find out in a more detail manner what the two editorialists who gave a lecture at Harvard on November 11 believe, and we find out that both have recently travelled to North Korea. Evan Osnos from The New Yorker, wrote a study titled “The Risks of Nuclear War with North Korea,” in which he points out: “Iraq taught us that cost of going to war against an adversary that we do not fully understand. Before we take a radical step into Asia, we should be sure that were not making that mistake again /as in Iraq/.” Nicholas Kristoff recently travelled to North Korea too, and subsequently wrote: “I leave North Korea with the same sense of foreboding that I felt after leaving Saddam’s Iraq in 2002. War is preventable but I ‘m not sure it will be prevented.”

The discovery of the things the two wrote induced a small commotion of back-and-forth tweets between the experts interested in the North Korean nuclear crisis dossier. Maybe President Trump’s angry reaction toward The New York Times – “The failing @nytimes hates the fact that I have developed a great relationship with World leaders.” – finds here an extra motivation compared to the older and more constant presidential charge against the daily: “fake news.”

But, before anything, there is the fear of the community of experts that war is still possible on the Korean Peninsula. Especially since former U.S. Secretary of State Bill Perry stated for Politico, on 14 November 2017 – under the title ‘Don’t Count on the Cabinet to Stop a Trump-Ordered Nuclear Strike’ – that “James Mattis and Rex Tillerson can’t stop a nuclear war if President Trump wants one. They couldn’t.”