Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Promises of Incineration: the Nuclear Playground Gets Busy

“I don’t know what he’s saying and I’ve long ago given up trying to interpret what he says.”

— Senator John McCain on President Donald J. Trump, Aug 8, 2017

Moral equivalence is the enemy of the noble and the exceptional, and the screeching rhetoric currently being fired across the diplomatic bows of Pyongyang and Washington have become mirrors of brute behaviour.

The reasons for this spike came after another round of spanking sanctions on the North Korean regime, a move that did have the reluctant blessing of China on the UN Security Council. Such a move would effectively strip Pyongyang’s coffers of $1 billion, making the point that Washington may well not so much bomb North Korea to the negotiating table as bankrupt it into a bargain.

The evident flaw in this strategy is simple: sanctions have succeeded in reducing a desperate population to an even more impecunious position while entrenching the regime.  All the while, these moves have boosted the nuclear weapons drive.

The note on sanctions marked a particularly aggressive mood of participants at the ASEAN foreign minister’s summit over the weekend, one flavoured by the combative sprigs of Philippines’ president Rodrigo Duterte.  North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, spat the potty-mouthed, drug pusher killing strongman, was a chubby faced “son of a bitch” prone to “playing with dangerous toys”.[1] It was soon evident to reporters that a self-portrait was being sketched. (It takes one to grudgingly know one.)

Duterte did, however, make the needless point that any nuclear confrontation on the peninsula was bound to inflict a geographical calamity of some consequence. “A limited confrontation and it blows up here, I will tell you, the fallout can deplete the soil, the resources and I don’t know what will happen to us.”

Chinese delegates had been keen not to put too many noses out of joint, given South China Sea tensions and the vast elephant in the room that is Beijing’s ambitions.  The final joint communiqué of the ministers on August 5 called for “non-militarisation and restraint” regarding the contested area while avoiding any specific mention of Chinese actions.[2]

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s cup of praise brimmed, describing the summit as a “successful meeting with [a] very positive and friendly atmosphere”. In rather jejune fashion, Wang claimed that the China-ASEAN strategic partnership had “entered a new stage of comprehensive development.”[3]

On Sunday, Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, expressed her satisfaction at Beijing’s warming to the US position.  “The fact that the Chinese were helpful and instrumental in setting up this really sweeping set of international sanctions shows how they realize that this is a huge problem they need to take on, that it’s a threat to them and their region.”[4]

In absentia, albeit very much present, was the regime of the DPRK.  Having effectively gathered a noose, the US-led effort generated a predictable response.  “Packs of wolves,” went a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency, “are coming in attack to strangle a nation.  They should be mindful that the DPRK’s strategic steps accompanied by physical action will be taken mercilessly with the mobilisation of all its national strength.”

It took a matter of hours for the White House occupant to respond.  “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” exclaimed President Donald Trump to reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He [Kim] has been very threatening beyond a normal state and as I said they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

It did not take long for the Kim regime to put out word that it was considering the possibility of a military deployment using the Hwasong-12. One suggestion was a missile strike on Guam in the Western Pacific, home to the Anderson Air Force Base.

This would involve, in the bombastic wording of a spokesman for the Korean People’s Army, initiating a plan that would be “put into practice in a multi-current and consecutive way any moment once Kim Jong-un, supreme commander of the nuclear force of the DPKR, makes a decision.”

The nuclear playground is proving busier than ever.  Ballistic missile tests are met by air-force fly overs and further military exercises.  These, in turn, are met by more tests, spruced with the necessary, inflammatory rhetoric of incineration.  The sand pit is being turned over.

Instead of pushing an agenda of recognition that would entail the survival of the Kim regime, rather than its annihilation let alone more genteel overthrow, asphyxiation is being pursued.  Desperation is being fed its disturbing rations.

What matters now is which bully will call the other’s bluff.  Will the ghost of pre-emption be made a blood-spilt reality?  Pyongyang remains the better placed one, noting the old adage that leopards don’t tend to alter their indelible spots.  (Remember Iraq, remember Libya.)  But it is Trump who persists in showing that a bully’s restraint and measure of self-control is taking a heavy toll.

Notes

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/03/chubby-fool-duterte-lambasts-north-koreas-kim-jong-un-for-nuclear-ambitions

[2] http://asean.org/storage/2017/08/Joint-Communique-of-the-50th-AMM_FINAL.pdf

[3] http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/web/wjbzhd/t1482778.shtml

[4] http://www.marketwatch.com/story/north-korea-defiant-as-china-agrees-to-tough-new-un-sanctions-2017-08-06

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
Amitai Ben-Abba
Israel’s New Ideology of Genocide
Patrick Cockburn
Israel is at the Height of Its Power, But the Palestinians are Still There
Frank Stricker
Can We Finally Stop Worrying About Unemployment?
Binoy Kampmark
Royal Wedding Madness
Roy Morrison
Middle East War Clouds Gather
Edward Curtin
Gina Haspel and Pinocchio From Rome
Juana Carrasco Martin
The United States is a Country Addicted to Violence
Dean Baker
Wealth Inequality: It’s Not Clear What It Means
Robert Dodge
At the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Vern Loomis
If I’m Lying, I’m Dying
Valerie Reynoso
How LBJ initiated the Military Coup in the Dominican Republic
Weekend Edition
May 18, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Donald, Vlad, and Bibi
Robert Fisk
How Long Will We Pretend Palestinians Aren’t People?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Wild at Heart: Keeping Up With Margie Kidder
Roger Harris
Venezuela on the Eve of Presidential Elections: The US Empire Isn’t Sitting by Idly
Michael Slager
Criminalizing Victims: the Fate of Honduran Refugees 
John Laforge
Don’t Call It an Explosion: Gaseous Ignition Events with Radioactive Waste
Carlo Filice
The First “Fake News” Story (or, What the Serpent Would Have Said)
Dave Lindorff
Israel Crosses a Line as IDF Snipers Murder Unarmed Protesters in the Ghetto of Gaza
Gary Leupp
The McCain Cult
Robert Fantina
What’s Wrong With the United States?
Jill Richardson
The Lesson I Learned Growing Up Jewish
David Orenstein
A Call to Secular Humanist Resistance
W. T. Whitney
The U.S. Role in Removing a Revolutionary and in Restoring War to Colombia
Rev. William Alberts
The Danger of Praying Truth to Power
Alan Macleod
A Primer on the Venezuelan Elections
John W. Whitehead
The Age of Petty Tyrannies
Franklin Lamb
Have Recent Events Sounded the Death Knell for Iran’s Regional Project?
Brian Saady
How the “Cocaine Mitch” Saga Deflected the Spotlight on Corruption
David Swanson
Tim Kaine’s War Scam Hits a Speed Bump
Norah Vawter
Pipeline Outrage is a Human Issue, Not a Political Issue
Mel Gurtov
Who’s to Blame If the US-North Korea Summit Isn’t Held?
Patrick Bobilin
When Outrage is Capital
Jessicah Pierre
The Moral Revolution America Needs
Binoy Kampmark
Big Dead Place: Remembering Antarctica
John Carroll Md
What Does It Mean to be a Physician Advocate in Haiti?
George Ochenski
Saving Sage Grouse: Another Collaborative Failure
Sam Husseini
To the US Government, Israel is, Again, Totally Off The Hook
Brian Wakamo
Sick of Shady Banks? Get a Loan from the Post Office!
Colin Todhunter
Dangerous Liaison: Industrial Agriculture and the Reductionist Mindset
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again
George Capaccio
Bloody Monday, Every Day of the Week
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Swing Status, Be Gone
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail