The United States, France, and the United Kingdom on Saturday coordinated to strike chemical weapons facilities within Syria. The U.S.-led allies launched missile strikes in response to a suspected chemical attack carried out by Syrian government forces on Douma, the rebel-held town in the war-torn country. The U.S. Department of Defense said the allies launched 105 missiles in Syria, successfully hit all three targets and had no reports of civilian casualties in the attack. “A perfectly executed strike. Mission accomplished,” U.S. President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter.
The precision attack on Syria was part of a limited military operation against chemical weapons facility targets inside Syria, in response to the use of chemical weapons, a heinous crime against humanity. The strikes serve a few purposes. One, to show the Bashar al Assad’s regime that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. But it was strictly limited use of military power to avoid escalating into a war. The U.S.-led strikes is likely to heighten tensions between the United States and Russia although the Trump administration made clear that its strategy in Syria is not to engage in a civil war.
Two, to send a warning message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The Trump administration has applied maximum pressure campaign against North Korea while leaving the doors open for talks sometimes, nevertheless, it has never ruled out the possible military option against the rogue country. The strike on Syria is a vivid example of a bloody nose strategy, which Trump’s senior officials discussed in reference to military options against North Korea last year. Such a pressure policy is still effective even when Kim is expected to have a summit with Trump in May or June, therefore, Kim could face these consequences if their talks failed.
It may be too much to compare North Korea with Syria, where a civil war lasted eight years and almost escalated into an international war. As a matter of fact, having South Korea, a longtime U.S. ally, as its neighbor makes it harder for Washington to decide on any military action against the regime. The United States, however, has made clear that they are prepared to punish North Korea if the regime is reckless enough to conduct another nuclear and missile launch to test American military power or endurance.
On the other hand, the attack against Syria could lead to Kim’s miscalculation about his nuclear weapons – that having nuclear card reduces the likelihood of these types of strikes. Kim says he is willing to discuss giving up nuclear weapons program, but who knows he will change his mind at any time? One thing is certain: having nukes and taking the risk of military conflicts with the United States is not a good idea for the survival of his regime. Kim Jong Un should bear in mind the complete denuclearization through much anticipated inter-Korean and the North Korea-U.S. summits is the only and best policy left.