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A MAD silver lining in the mushroom cloud

Update: December, 05/2017 - 14:30
 
Viet Nam News

By Chi Lan

It has been a long time coming, but more and more people, and countries, are actually seeing the much maligned North Korea as acting rationally in its own interest, especially with regard to its nuclear capabilities.

The drama continues, but there has been a decisive shift in the status-quo.

As the United States went ahead with its largest-ever military air exercise with South Korea on Monday, North Korea responded as it always has to these drills, seeing them as a direct threat against it, and vowing to carry the fight to the opposite camp.

A North Korean paper called it “an open, all-out provocation against the DPRK, which may lead to a nuclear war any moment.”

Whether or not this threat is taken seriously, there is no question that North Korea’s nuclear capability cannot be dismissed lightly.

The tension ratcheted up in the Korean peninsula by state actors and the Western media in particular seemed to peak as the isolated country successfully fired an intercontinental ballistic missile less than a week ago. As is its wont, it claimed that the missile could reach the entire mainland of the US.

The ability to acquire at least one of the nuclear triad – land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, strategic bombers and ballistic missile submarines – could well mean that North Korea has pulled it off, and become a “legitimate” nuclear power.

The rhetoric about “fire and fury” that emanated from President Trump is just a continuation of long-standing US assertions that the use of force is always an option in resolving the Korean crisis, but North Korea’s emergence as a nuclear power means the chance of war has grown less likely than ever, says Trần Việt Thái, Deputy Head of the Institute for Foreign Policy and Strategic Studies under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thái explained the M.A.D (mutually assured destruction) doctrine, saying there has never been a war between nuclear powers in the world as they, and other parties involved, know very well how cataclysmic the consequences of a nuclear showdown can be.

He said its unclear, unidentified nuclear arsenal has probably raised its leverage in dealing with the US as well as its own neighbours, and could prompt adjustments in the way the world views North Korea.

“In recent meetings with scholars, I noticed a remarkable change in the Russian part when they started intimating that North Korea’s nuclear build-up came from the need to protect itself and not to attack anyone,” Thái said.

The WMD excuse for attacking Iraq and other military action on dubious claims against Libya and Syria is likely to give the “world” pause before it jumps on the “allies” bandwagon

“The US, however, clings to its rhetoric that North Korea’s nuclear development is only aimed at blackmailing them,” Thai said.

President Trump has slung personal insults at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his administration’s declaration of the country as a "State sponsor of terrorism", imposition of harsher sanctions and repeated calls on other countries to cut economic ties with North Korea show that the US will stay its course.

But the fact remains that North Korea has survived all kinds of sanctions for decades and managed to develop nuclear weapons despite them. The point is as moot as it is fundamental:  the approach of the US and the so-called “international community” has been completely ineffective so far.

The US approach essentially means this: it has to do so to at least keep its image as the biggest power on the global stage and reassure its allies in the region, Japan and South Korea; and it really has no other choice.

The six-party talks, once the only effective channel to have direct contact with North Korea, have not resumed since 2008 despite numerous revival attempts.

“In my opinion, the six-party talks have died.

“The US is stuck and confused about its strategy, but it is high time for all parties to adjust their policies towards North Korea,” Thai said.

North Korea is no longer a country that issues, empty, bellicose threats. It is a country that possesses fearsome nuclear power. Whether the world likes it or not, it has happened and it is impossible to strip the country of its nuclear arsenal, however small or big it may be.

Will the US accept this fact and change its approach accordingly, or will it persist with a failed strategy? Can dialogue and negotiations resume soon, publicly or behind the scenes?

We don’t know, but North Korea might have just painted a silver lining to a mushroom cloud. — VNS