U.S. President Donald Trump praises himself for “preventing a war in Korea” for months. Is this indeed based on facts?
President Trump claims that at the time he was inaugurated, "President Obama thought you had to go to war. You know how close he was to pressing the trigger.” However, main figures of the Obama administration said during an interview with The New York Time that Obama concluded that it was too risky for Korea to handle after reviewing various military options. A diplomatic expert in Washington also told this reporter that “The United States puts all options on the table for any security issues, whether it is a talk or military action. However, this is literally review and the Obama administration never leaned towards military measures seriously.”
This reporter searched “war North Korea nuclear U.S. preemptive strike’ on the article search system called KINDS. From November 8, 2016, the day Mr. Trump was elected, to the past eight years, there were 256 articles but there were almost no contents concerning the possibility of a war. From the day Mr. Trump was inaugurated to the end of last year, however, there were 706 articles.
In fact, the possibility of North Korea’s nuclear bomb was practically zero before President Trump was inaugurated. It is realistically impossible for the United States, who prioritizes the safety of its citizens, to push forward a war when tens of thousands of its citizens are within the range of revenge attack.
Many say that the Clinton administration attempted to attack North Korea in 1994 but this is an exaggeration. This writer met or interviewed William Perry, then Secretary of State who was in charge of planning the North's Yongbyon nuclear site attack and Robert Gallucci, then special envoy for North Korea’s nuclear issues. In summary, former President Clinton reviewed plans to attack the North for some six months from 1993 but never decided to actually execute the plan. That is, they made sufficient preparation but ultimately did not adopt it.
In South Korea, however, it has been known that U.S. citizens living in the South were to be distributed as the attack on North Korea became imminent. In relation to this, Kim Suk-woo, who served deputy unification minister during the Kim Young-sam administration, reminisced that then presidential diplomatic secretary obtained a guideline of the U.S. embassy in South Korea that regularly reviews plans to distribute the families of U.S. army in case of a war and reported it to President Kim. Park Gwan-yong, then Kim's chief of staff, also said, “President Kim called Clinton the day after gaining access to the memo by the diplomatic head and received an answer that there was no war.”
The war crisis theory last year aggravated because President Trump is the most unpredictable figure in the history of the United States at a time when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was frantically developing nuclear missiles. All structural conditions including the U.S. policy for the Korean Peninsula never tilted towards war inevitably.
What is even more absurd than thanking the very person who ignited the fire on the crisis for putting out the fire is casting a mist over the very essence of denuclearization in South Korea and the United States as the “war vs. peace” framework is exaggerated. If we were to establish a frame that "what we are pushing forward is a substitute of war," it may build criticism on the path we push forward as to "we want war?" Although this is opposite from what the extreme right’s argument over "communism or security," such frame shares similar features.
Who gains political profit or not is not important. What matters is the realization of denuclearization. The current path, however, is concerning as this may be a path where North Korea is heading towards becoming a nuclear state like Pakistan. Kim Jong Un, up until now, focused on strategies that directly provoked us but became a gentle lamb while still producing nuclear fuels this year. Pakistan also received tremendous pressure to give up its nuclear weapons after its nuclear experiment in 1998 but stayed quiet for the following 20 years, and no one is making an issue of it.
Kee-Hong Lee email@example.com