“We are by far the most powerful country in the world and hopefully we don't have to use it,” said U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday. “But if we do, we will use it. If we have to, we will do it.” This is a warning message to North Korea, which is increasing the level of its provocations with the year-end deadline. North Korea leader Kim Jong Un propagated his climbing of Paektu Mountain and announced that a plenary meeting of the North Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee will be convened at the end of this month. President Trump is determined to transition to the “new path,” rather than engaging in negotiation.
North Korea and the U.S. seem to be quickly heading towards a collision. North Korea is showing suspicious movements in the Tongchang-ri missile test site and the Yongbyon nuclear facilities while installing launch pads for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in various locations. Kim Jong Un even forewarned a “major decision.” Meanwhile, the U.S. has been conducting surveillance with a number of reconnaissance planes over the Korean Peninsula day after day while President Trump went as far as to call Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” again and implied the possibility of using military force.
So far it remains at the psychological warfare level. North Korea is intentionally exposing its provocations to the U.S.’ satellite surveillance system. The U.S. is also conducting surveillance flight publicly without turning the location tracking system of aircraft. Such tensions between the two sides will only increase as the end of the year reaches closer. The bilateral relations may go back to the menacing situation two years ago when the Washington and Pyongyang shared quite harsh words if North Korea directly confronts President Trump’s warning of using military power. The possibility of an extreme confrontation, in which North Korea senselessly conducts nuclear tests, launches ICBMs and makes local provocations in the Yellow Sea while the U.S. contemplates military options, cannot be excluded.
Driving up tensions as much as possible to obtain compensation has been North Korea’s long-standing tactic. What the regime wants is dramatic compromise right before the collapse, however, President Trump is used to this sort of a game. The U.S. president warned North Korea of the use of military power while putting pressure on South Korea to increase its military cost share hinting the possibility of the withdrawal of the United States Forces Korea. People may shake their heads at Trump’s plan to deal with Seoul and Pyongyang, but the risks related to the U.S. president will only grow as tensions rise.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s diplomacy has lost all of its presence in the current situation on the Korean Peninsula. It’s been long since the country lost its right to voice opinions as a mediator and conversation facilitator between the North and the U.S. South Korea has been completely ignored by North Korea while trying to please the North and ended up increasing the U.S.’ bill for military cost share while being stubborn. South Korea’s diplomacy cannot be found anywhere. Are we going to simply talk about how “there’s nothing we can do” and insist on a narrative about “peace,” to which nobody pays attention, while just waiting around for a fluke? I cannot help but wonder if there is any contingency plan in place.