By Josef Omorotionmwan
IN human situations, the view is widely held that those who want to avert a fight must first seek to prevent a quarrel for, once a quarrel ensues what naturally follows is a fight.
For some time now, the United States of America and North Korea have been at the theatre of war, shadow-boxing and waiting to see who strikes first.
The US wants North Korea to relinquish its nuclear programme; to which North Korea is totally defiant, so defiant that in very quick succession, it has carried out seven nuclear bomb tests, to the utter consternation of the US, which has kept securing severe sanctions against North Korea.
Here in the West, the President of the US, Donald Trump, is carrying on like a big bull in a China shop, threatening of how he is going to squeeze the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, like an ant. Trump pleasantly dominates the Western press.
Yet, not much is being heard directly from Kim. And the awkward silence cannot mean that he is doing nothing. Rather he must be working quietly underground. Here lies the real danger. From some dependable intermediaries; from the body-language of principal actors in Pyongyang; and from the lessons of history; the jig-saw is fitting perfectly.
Kim does not want to die yet. Neither does he want his regime overthrown. The regime has cleverly identified the surrender of a nation’s nuclear programme as a sure suicide bid. North Korea maintains that its nuclear weaponry is meant to deter the US from attempting to overthrow the regime.
They quickly point to Iraq where Saddam Hussein was overthrown by the US after relinquishing its nuclear programme; and Libya, where Strongman Muammar Gadhafi gave up his nuclear ambition under the heavy weight of severe sanctions, only to be toppled and killed by the US. To them, staying alive simply takes being able to threaten the US with retaliatory nuclear strikes. Nuclear weapon and weapons of mass destruction have become the greatest protection a nation can have.
What the US has in size, North Korea has in agility. Hear North Korea’s Minister of Foreign and Economic Relations, Kim Jong Jae, “North Korea will respond to the barbaric attempts to exert pressure by the US by our strong counter measures… Attempts to use unprecedented aggressive sanctions and pressures to intimidate us and make us reverse our course are a huge mistake… The United States should by all means keep in mind the nuclear status of our country which owns nuclear and hydrogen bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles.”
The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is quite categorical that no amount of pressure will force North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme, “North Korea may eat grass but they will not give up their nuclear programme.”
There is the shaky argument that North Korea will not strike first because Kim values his regime’s survival above all else. The strength of this argument is also its weakness.
Kim strongly believes that even where they cannot win the war, they posses enough capabilities to inflict tremendous injuries on the US; so that if the US wants to spend the next 200 years burying the dead, they will have enough in their hands. This type of optimism is a propelling force for a regime that is intent on doing collateral damage to a perceived demigod.
There is one potentially dangerous area where North Korea holds a serious advantage over the US and Kim knows it. The area of surprise attacks, which gained prominence post World War II. Perhaps, unknown to many, this is an area where North Korea is a firm player and a clear leader.
From World War II to the present day, all the major conflicts that have reshaped international balance of power have begun with surprise attacks.
During World War II, the French, Soviets and Americans suffered surprise attacks from the Germans and the Japanese. In the post World War II era, both the North Korea invasion of South Korea and the Chinese intervention in 1950 were all by surprise attacks. Three Middle East crises – the Sinai campaign of 1956; the Six Day War of 1967; and the October War of 1973 – were all launched by surprise. The Soviet invasion of Czechosvakia also provides a perfect example of a surprise attack.
None of these cases was traceable to failure of intelligence. The warning signs were there quite alright, but the political leaders failed to heed the warnings; and they did not respond as appropriate.
Some wonder how much harm North Korea can do to a Superpower like the US. To such people North Korea’s posturing could be reminiscent of the proverbial madman who claims to have only stuck a match here but knows nothing about the ravaging conflagration over there.
For all we know, the world today is sitting on a keg of gunpowder, which could explode anytime. The situation in the Korean peninsula is so precarious that it has been likened to a boil that is perching on a man’s scrotum. Utmost care must be exercised in dealing with the boil. The feuding parties must be willing to live and let the rest of us live.
If the situation in the Korea peninsula is allowed to spiral out of control, the effect of the conflict might be felt on earth, in heaven and in hell eternally.
It bears repeating, therefore, that the time to start anti-war campaigns is now! Truly, the US approach to past wars might have been based on a policy of live and let die. That remains perpetually consigned to the past.
America must bring more flexibility into the issue of severe sanctions against North Korea. Putin expresses this point most succinctly, “Sanctions as pressures are only half of the key to resolving the nuclear issue. The other half is dialogue and negotiations. Only when the two are put together can it unlock the nuclear issue.” The time to come to the round table is now! After all, in every situation, jaw-jaw is better than war-war.