The world’s second- and third-most powerful navies are teaming up to remind Donald Trump that he needs to be careful with North Korea.
As President Donald Trump stood before the United Nations earlier this week and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea and its 25 million people, Russian and Chinese warships had assembled in the Sea of Okhotsk north of Japan for a major naval exercise.Sponsored Links
The two provocative events were not unrelated. The more Trump escalates his rhetorical assault on North Korea, the more Russia and China—the world powers with the strongest ties to Pyongyang—have countered with veiled threats of their own directed at the United States and its allies.
Furthermore, they would have nothing to lose, as their wealth and influence is tied to the maintenance of the regime. If the regime falls, so do their livelihoods and grip on power. It is often noted that it is difficult to disperse chemical and biological weapons. While Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria is noticed, we don’t know how many times he’s attempted to launch chemical weapons attacks and failed. Two decades ago, we learned that the Aum Shinrikyo cult attempted multiple chemical weapons attacks in Japan only to be met with abysmal and embarrassing failures. Chemical and biological weapons are difficult to store and successfully disperse.
But if you think “totally destroy” sounded aggressive in English, in the Chinese translation it sounded downright apocalyptic.
The UN’s official interpreter rendered the phrase as ???? (pronounced wanquan xiaomie) in Mandarin (link in Chinese), which means something closer to “annihilate,” “completely exterminate,” or “wipe off the face of the earth.”
If you google this phrase, there are a lot of results from forums in which people discuss how to “completely exterminate” cockroaches or other insects from their homes. The phrase is made up of two parts, wanquan, which means “completely” or “totally,” and xiaomie, meaning “annihilate.”
Federal officials, congressional aides and rocket scientists say emerging clues suggest that, over the years, Pyongyang obtained the fuel, its precursors, its secret formula and its manufacturing gear from China, the North’s main trading partner. Beijing still uses UDMH to loft satellites and warheads and has long exported the toxic substance around the globe.
China has always denied aiding North Korea’s missile program, and the fuel is included on a 15-year-old list of missile-related materials that Beijing has put on an export control list. But a secret report from 2008 that was included in the WikiLeaks disclosures found evidence of an “uneven track record in enforcing its missile-related export controls.”
This article is another example of how China helped North Korea’s missile program.
There is another option. A strategy of “active containment” using existing military capabilities, by forming a missile defense perimeter in international waters surrounding North Korea that would knock down every missile launched. This approach could quickly address a difficult problem in a restrained and efficient way, and would prevent Kim from continuing to develop the means to deliver nuclear weapons, without which he is unable to threaten the world.
This idea is feasible using currently deployed naval technology. The U.S., South Korean, and Japanese navies all have interoperable, state-of-the-art Aegis radar systems, and will be buying associated SM-3 series missiles that can intercept most North Korean missiles throughout their flight. Most importantly, the newest SM-3 Block IIA version can also knock down the kind of ICBM that could reach the continental U.S., either in its ascent or terminal phase.
A very coldblooded analysis places the destruction of North Korea’s nuclear capability as the logical choice strategically for the U.S. The case can be made that protecting the U.S. from nuclear attack must take precedence for an American president over the fate of Seoul. It’s all logical and coldblooded, but among the more unsavory choices I have seen. There could, however, be another solution out there – one based in technology. In the United States, people tend to think technology solves all ills. Perhaps this could be the solution to the crisis.
“We have pretty much exhausted all the things that we could do at the Security Council at this point,” said Nikki Haley on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, referring to North Korea. “We wanted to be responsible and go through all diplomatic means to get their attention first,” said the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. “If that doesn’t work, General Mattis [Defense Secretary James Mattis] will take care of it.”
“The trucks carried the ‘Sinotruk’ logo on the fuel tank and shared some identical features with the Sinotruk Howo 6×6 series trucks shown at the 10 October 2015 military parade,” the report said.
It is the second significant transfer of strategic missile technology from China identified by the panel.
In June 2013 the panel revealed the sale by China in 2011 of six to eight transporter erector launchers, known as TELs, that are now part of North Korea’s first road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile system, the KN-08.
Imagine large cities like Seoul, Tokyo, and perhaps Los Angeles turned to atomic ash before it’s all over. Imagine the millions of internally and externally displaced refugees whose lives would be destroyed from the sheer carnage. Then, imagine the trillions of dollars needed to put back together the economics pieces, to say nothing of the hopes and dreams of countless millions of people that would be wiped out in a nuclear nightmare that seems almost unthinkable.