VP Mike Pence either issued an empty threat, or else…

Today, Vice President Mike Pence warned North Korea against further provocations that might “the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region”, citing the recent U.S. attacks against targets in Syria and Afghanistan as examples of our new administrations toughness.

This is horrifying. Or it should be.

In Afghanistan, we recently dropped a single (albeit, quite large) bomb on insurgent forces who have almost no means to projecting force against anything of value to us, while in Syria, we launched a more diverse strike of 59 Tomahawk missiles against a single target. And, as in Afghanistan, Syria is more or less incapable of sustained attacks against us or our allies.

Not saying that Israel isn’t a U.S. ally, but because their military forces would overwhelm Syria’s, they are borderline immune to Syrian reprisals.

The situation on the Korean Peninsula is vastly different.

We can’t drop a single 15,000lb bomb on a North Korean target, sit back and pat ourselves on the back. Nor can we launch a few cruise missiles into the DPRK and exclaim how we offered a show of force.

Either of those scenarios would lead to instant reprisal against our allies, South Korea and Japan. Afterall, the north has an estimated 13,000 pieces of artillery positioned along their southern border, along with missiles capable of reaching Japan.

There shouldn’t be any need to speculate about the consequences of either or both of those actions – it should be clear that the results of any strike against the North create a cascade of events that would be catastrophic to all – South Korea, Japan, China, and we can’t forget the people who continue to suffer under the leadership of Kim Jong Un.

I only hope that cooler heads in the Administration prevail upon our President and Vice President to not chalk up their recent “successes” in Syria and Afghanistan as reason to rattle their sabres toward a country who’s guns are pointed outwards and whose leadership has everything to lose if they DON’T respond to a provocation.

North Korea flexes its muscles, again 

Some time last night (for those of us in the Western Hemisphere), North Korea conducted another nuclear test to celebrate the anniversary of its founding in 1948

When the news initially broke it was reported to as earthquake, but that idea was quickly debunked by ever amateur observers. A user on Reddit going by seis_matters  quickly pointed out:


While there will certainly be some strong words in the coming days, it’s not at all clear what the world can take to reign in the DPRK’s behavior. 

Sanctions?

The country is already one of the most heavily-sanctioned in the world. And while it receives food aid, cutting that off would only cut the lifeline of people living under the current regime. The government already prioritizes its military over everything else, so food shortages would land squarely on the general population rather than the military, and certainly not the leadership. 

Attack?

We could follow in the other tradition, the one that says that with the worlds most powerful military as your hammer, every problem looks like a nail. 

That approach is also untenable. Aside from the enormous loss of life that would be caused on both sides of the conflict at the northern end of the Korean Peninsula, the DPRK is known to have its artillery aimed squarely at Seoul and missiles that can reach Japan, and has given assurances that it would use them if attacked. 

Any other options?

Its hard to imagine any other options. The leadership in North Korea is “pot committed” at this point – there is no way for them to gracefully cede power and disappear into the night, as, even if they received assurances of safety from other countries, there are literally millions of people who would not rest until they extracted each of their pounds of flesh from the leadership that has caused them such harm. 

What other options are there? Smarter people than me have puzzled over the situation for far longer, and so far the best anyone has come up with is to leave them to themselves, but even that is not tenable. As a nuclear armed state, starved of resources, and with a penchant for selling whatever it has to to insure its survival, non-confrontation runs the risk of it transferring dangerous technology to other pariah states. 

No solutions. 

I am interested to hear what Donald Trump would propose. Actually, no, I’m not!