On Thursday, amid de-escalation chatter, President Trump once again insisted that US military action in North Korea remains a possibility should the North continue its threatening behavior against the US and its allies. If the US were to strike, it would be a “sad day” for the isolated North, Trump promised, adding that while “it would be great” if the issue of containing the North’s nuclear program could be resolved without military action, “nothing is inevitable.” Not peace, not war.
Meanwhile, instead of remorse, Kim Jong Un has only expressed what appears to be frustration that global financial markets aren’t taking his threats more seriously, and has vowed to continue. With its neighbor and client state threatening to upset the global apple cart, China on Thursday hinted that it could support tighter UN economic sanctions, but also pushed the two sides to begin a dialogue. Meanwhile, Russia Today reports that the US military is continuing to prepare for another ground war on the continent. A recent procurement posting suggests that the US Army is seeking a contractor to train its forces in South Korea to respond to potential attacks involving a weapon of mass destruction.
According to a contract proposal posted by the Army on the Federal Business Opportunities website, the Army’s 718th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company (EOD) in South Korea should be taught to identify hazardous materials, “know how to perform basic control, containment and/or confinement operations,” and implement decontamination procedures.
The contractor would be expected to provide a two-week training course, taught on-site at the US Camp Humphreys base in South Korea. The US has 25,000 troops deployed at some 80 sites across the country. In August, the Pentagon posted another proposal that hinted at heightened anxieties about an attack: Contractors were needed to build walls around four US bases, according to Russia Today.
Trump’s remarks famously followed an aggressive statement from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who warned of a “massive military response” to any perceived threat from North Korea to the US or its allies. Carrying on the US’s rhetorical good cop, bad cop routine with the North. Earlier this week, the US began deploying four new THAAD missile-defense systems in Seongju County, located about 300km south of Seoul, adding to the two already there. The South Korean Defense Ministry cited an urgent need to mobilize the launchers amid growing threats from North Korea, despite widespread local protests against the deployment.
The US and South Korea also conducted joint anti-submarine drills on Thursday and Friday, according to Yonhap.
Joining the chorus of voices insisting on a diplomatic solution, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that a diplomacy could still work – backing away from his previous suggestion that an all-out nuclear conflict was inevitable. However, as the North is probably plotting more missile and nuclear tests, we imagine the US military presence near the DMZ will gradually build as the conflict simmers with no resolution in sight.
But the biggest question facing the Korean crisis is whether, as many have speculated, North Korea will use tomorrow's holiday as a catalyst to launch the next ICBM, a move which Citi recently said would force the US to take military action in retaliation.