Conflict with North Korea coming to a head

Pyongyang threatened the US with a pre-emptive strike on Thursday. On the weekend North Korea had carried out a missile test which, however, failed. UN Secretary General António Guterres has called on China, the US, Japan, South Korea and Russia to prevent a North Korean military build-up. How dangerous is this latest escalation?

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El País (ES) /

Trump playing with fire

Ten days ago the US military threatened that a huge naval fleet was on the way to Korea. Now it turns out that the fleet was in Australian waters. El País feels reminded of the book written by the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, The Art of War:

“For ten days a powerful US navy strike group led by the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson was not where we all thought it was, namely off the coast of North Korea. The Carl Vinson alone carries more fighter jets than most of the world's armed forces possess, and the ships that escort it have a missile arsenal of which the same can be said. … This means that in this era of instantaneous information Washington was able to keep a mighty armed force hidden for several days. A secret in which thousands of people, literally, were involved. With this ploy Trump has incorporated an element of combat tactics into his diplomacy: deception. So far, so good. But someone in Washington should remind him what it was that Sun Tzu was talking about: war.”

Revista 22 (RO) /

Beijing won't side with Washington

Trump wants Beijing to up the pressure on North Korea but this strategy won't work for two reasons, Revista 22 points out:

“Mainly because Pyongyang won't budge an inch on its nuclear weapons. The dynasty sees them as vital for its own survival. In connection with a missile test the regime made a clear reference in a press release in January 2017 to the fate of Muammar al-Gadaffi and Saddam Hussein, who lost their grip on power because of the lack of a nuclear deterrent. Kim Jong-un won't renounce that deterrent. … And even if China doesn't agree with Pyongyang's current dictator, it still sees North Korea as a 'useful troublemaker' that keeps America and Japan on tenterhooks and South Korea in check and therefore ensures that China has more political leeway in its own policies to gradually reduce American influence in Asia.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

Trump wants to distract from domestic failures

The US president's newfound interventionism is above all domestically motivated, The Irish Independent suspects:

“These are really perilous times for the entire globe. President Trump's assertive stance is a reversal of his election campaign rhetoric and subsequent statements immediately after taking office on January 20 last. In a clear departure from his 'America first' stance, he has in recent times turned up the heat in Afghanistan and Yemen, and also mounted a rocket attack in Syria. For many, his new-found interest in international affairs is reassuring. But Mr Trump's motivation is for all that rather suspect. Could he be cynically trying to arrest a marked fall in popularity at home by being tough overseas? Many of us fear he is doing just that.”

El Mundo (ES) /

Nuclear bomb can't shield Kim Jong-un forever

For Kim Jong-un nuclear weapons are a guarantee of the power he now risks losing, El Mundo comments:

“For the dictatorship, demonstrating that it possesses this deadly technology serves only one purpose: to perpetuate its rule. This is its objective. Pyongyang knows that it would have fallen long ago if it didn't have this big weapon. And the geopolitical developments of the last decade - including the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein - have prompted the North Korean regime to isolate itself further and desperately try to accelerate its nuclear programme. But the wire rope can't be stretched indefinitely without breaking. And in an international situation as fragile as this any move can unleash an unpredictable spiral of events. The Trump administration's new strategy, based on tough power and rearmament, seems incompatible with the patient diplomacy that all the major powers have exercised vis-à-vis Pyongyang so far.”

Diário de Notícias (PT) /

No one wants to see North Korea disappear

An end to North Korea as a state structure is not in the interests of the powers in the region, Diário de Notícias points out:

“As much of a threat as the young Kim Jong-un may represent, as worrying as the North Korean nuclear programme may be and as annoying as the grandstanding rhetoric from Pyongyang is, it is not in the interests of the regional powers - not even South Korea - to erase North Korea from the map. Let's say the Kim regime disappears and Korea reunifies under the patronage of the South: the Chinese and Russians would suddenly be confronted with US troops on their borders - and Japan would have to stand by and watch a historical rival [Korea] double its territory and gain economic power. … The logical goal of international pressure must therefore be to force the North Korean regime to come to its senses.”