President-elect Donald Trump will almost certainly face an increasingly-belligerent nuclear North Korea.
“I think the notion of getting the North Koreans to denuclearize is probably a lost cause,” the Director of U.S. National Intelligence James Clapper said in October.
North Korea has conducted two nuclear weapons tests so far this year, as well as multiple ballistic missile tests. The North claims that it can mount a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile; however, there is no verifiable evidence that North Korea has this kind of capability. It is clear, though, that the North is moving in that direction. Pyongyang wants to develop long-range nuclear-tipped missiles that can hit the U.S.
“By the end of Donald Trump’s first term, we could be facing an isolated, pathological little gangster state able to obliterate Seattle,” former CIA Director General Michael Hayden wrote Tuesday.
The hermit kingdom demands recognition as a normal, nuclear state; it believes that “nuclear weapons” are its “ticket to survival.”
Hayden advocates putting pressure on China, which “believes that current circumstances are tolerable, or at least more tolerable than potential instability, refugee flows or a unified Korea integrated with the West.”
“Beijing would rather live with today’s painful toothache than chance the root canal or oral surgery,” the ex-CIA chief said, “we might want to allow the tooth to hurt more — not maliciously, but as a byproduct of steps logically taken because of North Korea’s actions.”
He referred to America’s decision to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile shield in South Korea as a “prudent defense measure.” China is firmly opposed to THAAD, for it fears that the X-band radar will peer into Chinese territory and threaten the country’s national security. Hayden said the U.S. could also consider installing THAAD in other allied countries “within the threat rings of North Korean missiles,” despite expected anger from China.
China has promised to take “necessary measures” to counter U.S. plans for the deployment of THAAD in South Korea, which is scheduled to be carried out sometime next year.
“We’d probably want to make U.S. missile defenses facing the Pacific Basin a lot stronger, too, even if it might begin to erode the deterrent value of China’s modest nuclear force,” Hayden noted.
“We could even revisit the decision to pull American nuclear weapons out of South Korea, or the rate at which American nuclear-capable ships visit Chinese/Korean waters, or perhaps restrictions we have demanded be placed on South Korea’s civilian nuclear industry,” he added.
The U.S. withdrew nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula in the early 1990s. South Korea is instead protected under America’s “nuclear umbrella” and the promise of extended deterrence.
Hayden further notes that the U.S. could sanction Chinese firms that do business with North Korea, another move certain to infuriate the Chinese.
China’s Foreign Ministry said that it firmly opposes countries that try to “exercise ‘long-arm jurisdiction’ by enforcing its domestic laws over China’s enterprises and individuals” after the U.S. slapped sanctions on a Chinese firm engaging in illegal trade with North Korea in late September.
Many observers, like Hayden, see China as the key to reining in North Korea.
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