Washington and Pyongyang are both jockeying for position, according to former Pentagon official Michael Maloof. The US is playing good cop, bad cop and is sending a signal to Beijing to get on the stick and get ‘this kid’ to smarten up a little, he added.
The US Defense Secretary James Mattis has urged Pyongyang to halt its nuclear weapons program and end its threats. In his statement on Wednesday, he said North Korea should abstain from “any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”
President Donald Trump has vowed to respond to threats from North Korea with “fire and fury.”
The State Department said Pyongyang doesn’t understand the language of diplomacy. Is that the case and are talks impossible?
Former Pentagon official Michael Maloof suggests we are not at that point yet and “everyone is jockeying for position.”
As for rhetoric that Trump is using, he’s “by nature bombastic and confrontational,” the former Pentagon official said.
“He’s done this before with North Korea, and then he’s backed off. He put Iran on notice – nothing happened. But it is to serve notice, on the one hand basically, and then at the same time work behind the scenes and to do something diplomatic. It is almost like a good cop, bad cop approach,” Maloof said.
He said that if the US wanted to, they could, together with their allies in the region, “wipe out North Korea in a half hour with non-nuclear weapons” which would be “a total disaster.”
“China doesn’t want that either. I think this is basically a signal to China they want them to get on the stick, get this kid to smarten up a little bit, and maybe a carrot can be put forward as I suggest, and out of the box – idea of offering diplomatic relations and see where that goes,” he said.
It would also be “a disaster” if South Korea pushes ahead with developing more powerful ballistic missiles, the analyst says, adding that this would start an arms race in the peninsula.
‘Threatening, changing regimes – only language US understands’
Lew Rockwell, chairman of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, argues the language the US understands and is using with Pyongyang isn’t quite the language of diplomacy either.
“The US is perfectly happy to threaten to destroy it, [it already] destroyed and regime changed so many countries around the world. We might say the US only understands that kind of language,” he said.
In his opinion, it’s “alarming for the US to keep threatening the extermination of the poor little country that it hates – not a good thing.”
“The North Koreans either have a nuclear deterrent, or they’re pretending to, but the only reason if they do have it, the only reason they’ve got it is to keep themselves from being exterminated by the US. That is what that all is about. So the idea that the answer is to this kind of very alarming business that,-let’s say the worst happens, it could wipe out South Korea; wipe out Japan; it could do damage to China, damage to Russia. And of course, the US occupying troops in South Korea would all be killed too. This is not anything anybody should want. So absolutely the path is to calm things down, stop making threats.”
Talks aren’t impossible, in Rockwell’s opinion.
“I am sure that Kim Jong-un is not a good guy. Although a lot of times when the US demonizes countries and wants to destroy – I think of Iraq, Libya, Syria – they always make the leader of the country much worse than he is in practice, and typically they are bad enough in practice. None of us know much of anything about North Korea. The US is perfectly happy to threaten to destroy it, destroyed and regime changed so many countries around the world.”
Rockwell also suggested letting South Koreans handle the issue with its northern neighbor.
“This is their country, their people. They want peace with North Korea. They would like all this to tone down. They don’t want US missiles and troops in their country. How about letting the South Korean prime minister, who was an advocate of peace meet with the North Koreans? Why is this the US’s business?”
Further escalation between the US and North Korea can’t be ruled out, given the “unpredictability” of the two countries, says Craig Erlam, a senior analyst at OANDA.
“There is always a possibility, and especially given the unpredictability of the two leaders concerned – there is always the chance that it could escalate a lot further. I do think there is going to be a large number of people around Donald Trump, who are going to continue to try and downplay this issue and reopen dialogue with North Korea and the countries surrounding it as well to try and bring a more peaceful solution… We’ve seen signs in the markets that people are preparing for that possibility [of escalation]… But the problem with these situations is that they can always escalate quickly, and they can be very unpredictable,” he told RT.