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Growing calls for preemptive strikes

Posted December. 05, 2017 07:32,   

Updated December. 05, 2017 09:06

한국어

Calls for a preemptive strike on North Korea seem to be escalating in the United States. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham argued on Saturday that they should discuss the possibility of a preemptive strike, saying, “The preemption is becoming more likely as their (nuclear missile) technology matures. I think we are really running out of time.” Given that National Security Advisor Herbert McMaster also expressed his concern over a possible armed conflict earlier by saying that the potential of a U.S. war with North Korea is “increasing every day,” arguments for preemptive attacks can grow to be actually discussed at the U.S. Congress.

Such arguments, which were growing louder early this year in Washington, have been put aside until recently as the Trump administration has focused on diplomatic solutions rather than military options. With Pyongyang’s recent declaration of becoming a “nuclear state,” however, the United States now has no choice but to consider its last resort, the likelihood of a preemptive strike. Much attention is also being paid to the largest-ever combined air force exercise of South Korea and the United States with some 260 aircraft starting on Monday. The five-day drills will include attacks on some 700 mock North Korean nuclear and missile targets.

More will likely to call for a preemptive strike going forward. The U.S. Congress has a powerful say over the government’s policies of external affairs, so if preemptive attacks start to be discussed at the Congress, the same situation that occurred in 2003 with the start of the Iraq war may repeat itself. Particularly noteworthy is Sen. Graham’s saying that “It is time for U.S. military families to leave South Korea.” Once his argument becomes a reality, it will signal that the Korean Peninsula is on the brink of a war.

The Trump administration seems to be focusing on putting pressure on the North for now. In the same vein, McMaster has noted the potential threat should South Korea and Japan decide to go nuclear to defend themselves from the North, and said that “That is not in China’s interests. It is not in Russia’s interests,” urging China and Russia to actively implement sanctions against Pyongyang. Yet, the public mention of a possible “nuclear domino effect” in Northeast Asia implies that Seoul and Tokyo may have to be nuclear armed to counter North Korea’s threats. U.S. President Donald Trump, when he was a Republican presidential candidate, even said that he would be “open to allowing Japan and South Korea to develop their own nuclear arsenals.”

While Capitol Hill is busying itself with discussing potential preemptive strikes and the possibility of South Korea and Japan’s nuclear armament, the South Korean government is continuously saying “no” to both likelihoods. Korean President Moon Jae-in promptly made it clear that the country does not want a situation where the United States considers a preemptive attack. The Korean government is also ruling out the possibility of nuclear armament, arguing it is neither possible nor desirable. The required sense of urgency is nowhere to be seen, and “creative diplomacy,” which the current administration has always stressed, has long disappeared. The Moon administration is only arguing for dialogue, saying North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats are an issue between Pyongyang and Washington. Yet, it takes no brainer to realize that now is the time to mobilize the country’s diplomacy and security resources to closely coordinate with the United States and discuss the issue with neighboring countries.