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Is a Korean Missile Crisis Ahead?
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To back up Defense Secretary “Mad Dog” Mattis’ warning last month, that the U.S. “remains steadfast in its commitment” to its allies, President Donald Trump is sending B-1 and B-52 bombers to Korea.

Some 300,000 South Korean and 15,000 U.S. troops have begun their annual Foal Eagle joint war exercises that run through April.

“The two sides are like two accelerating trains coming toward each other with neither side willing to give way,” says Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, “Are (they) really ready for a head-on collision?”

So it would seem.

It is Kim Jong Un, 33-year-old grandson of that Stalinist state’s founding father, who launched the first Korean War, who brought on this confrontation.

In February, Kim’s half-brother was assassinated in Malaysia in a VX nerve agent attack and five of Kim’s security officials were executed with anti-aircraft guns. Monday, Kim launched four missiles toward U.S. bases, with three landing in the Sea of Japan.

U.S. response: Begin immediate deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile shield in Korea.

This set off alarms in China. For while THAAD cannot shoot down Scuds on the DMZ, its radar can detect missile launches inside China, thereby, says Beijing, imperiling her deterrent.

For accepting THAAD, China has imposed sanctions on Seoul, and promised the U.S. a commensurate strategic response.

Minister Wang’s proposal for resolving the crisis: The U.S. and Seoul cancel the exercises and North Korea suspends the nuclear and missile tests.

How did we reach this crisis point?

In his 2002 “axis of evil” address, George W. Bush declared, “The United States … will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”

He then launched a war on Iraq, which had no such weapons. But North Korea, hearing Bush’s threat, built and tested five atom bombs and scores of missiles, a few of intercontinental range.

Pyongyang has tested new presidents before.

In April 1969, North Korea shot down a U.S. EC-121 over the Sea of Japan, killing its entire crew. President Nixon, a war in Vietnam on his hands, let it pass, which he regretted ever after.

But this crisis raises larger questions about U.S. foreign policy.

Why, a quarter of a century after the Cold War, do we still have 28,000 troops in Korea? Not only does South Korea have twice the population of the North, but an economy 40 times as large, and access to U.S. weapons far superior to any in the North.

Why should Americans on the DMZ be among the first to die in a second Korean War? Should the North attack the South, could we not honor our treaty obligations with air and naval power offshore?

Gen. James Mattis’ warning last month was unambiguous:

“Any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated and any use of nuclear weapons would be met with a response that would be effective and overwhelming.”

JFK’s phrase in the Cuban crisis, “full retaliatory response,” comes to mind.

Hence the next move is up to Kim.

New tests by North Korea of missiles or atom bombs for an ICBM could bring U.S. strikes on its nuclear facilities and missile sites, igniting an attack on the South.

For China, this crisis, whether it leads to war, a U.S. buildup in the South, or a U.S. withdrawal from Korea, is problematic.


Beijing cannot sit by and let her North Korean ally be bombed, nor can it allow U.S. and South Korean forces to defeat the North, bring down the regime, and unite the peninsula, with U.S. and South Korean soldiers sitting on the Yalu, as they did in 1950 before Mao ordered his Chinese army into Korea.

However, should U.S. forces withdraw from the South, Seoul might build her own nuclear arsenal, followed by Japan. For Tokyo could not live with two Koreas possessing nukes, while she had none.

This could leave China contained by nuclear neighbors: to the north, Russia, to the south, India, to the east, South Korea and Japan. And America offshore.

What this crisis reveals is that China has as great an interest in restraining North Korea as do we.

While the United States cannot back down, it is difficult to reconcile a second Korean war with our America first policy. Which is why some of us have argued for decades that the United States should moves its forces out of South Korea and off the Asian continent.

Events in Asia — Chinese claims to reefs and rocks in the South and East China Seas and North Korea’s menacing her neighbors — are pushing us toward a version of the Nixon Doctrine declared in Guam in 1969 that is consistent with America first:

While we will provide the arms for friends and allies to fight in their own defense in any future wars, henceforth, they will provide the troops.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.”

Copyright 2017

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  1. The North Korea-South Korea-Japan-PRC rivalry is something these regional powers should be left to sort out themselves. We risk being sucked into a conflict in which I see no good resolution from the perspective of the U.S.

    I remember a great American from the distant past warning us about entangling alliances!

    • Replies: @Astuteobservor II
  2. 1KoolKat says:

    Sorry Pat but I have to disagree. North Korea (NK) exists today only because China supports them as a buffer state which they control more than you wrote. Think of NK as China’s pit bull with nuclear teeth on a short leash. Or as another weapon in their arsenal. Would any country (as big and powerful as China) allow an uncontrollable renegade nuclear state to exist on their border and unwillingly pull them (China) into a regional conflict? Perhaps nuclear? Make no mistake about it, the Chinese and NK understand each other perfectly clear. There will not be a conflict in the region with NK unless China gives the green light. My opinion: The greatest danger for the west with NK is not in the region but with NK selling their newly developed technology to other nations (proliferation).

    • Replies: @Richard S
  3. China, South Korea and Japan are all wealthy nations with the means to defend themselves. America should no more be fighting wars on their behalf than they should on Israel’s behalf.

    Given that China is now the number one geopolitical threat to America, anything that forces them into a regional arms race and/or conflict with their neighbours is probably a good thing.

  4. Lit Dog says:

    The American people didn’t elect President Trump to protect the rest of the world. That’s foreign policy globalism. When so-called allies like Korea enjoy economic growth by manufacturing products that used to be made in American factories, American workers suffer while the 1% prosper. That’s economic globalism.

    Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has just asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling “so that we can proceed with our joint priorities.” Mnuchin of course is referring to the joint priorities of Congress and the White House. Yet when the money is spent for operations in Korea and the Middle East, it becomes clear that the joint priorities are actually globalist priorities.

    President Trump recently touted a 40% drop in illegal border crossings. In other words, illegals are still invading America, but the rate of their invasion has slowed. So our borders are still not protected. And yet, American troops and treasure can be sacrificed for Korea and Syria.

    Invade the world, invite the world are actually the joint priorities requiring the increased debt ceiling that Mnuchin requests. That’s the double-edged sword of globalism the American people thought they ducked last November.

  5. Agent76 says:

    When is the D.C. establishment not in manufactured crisis?

    Feb. 23, 2017 North Korea Mocks China for ‘Dancing to U.S. Tune’

    Pyongyang appears to have lashed out at Beijing in unusually pointed rhetoric North Korea appeared to lash out at Beijing in a state-media commentary published Thursday, aiming unusually pointed rhetoric at a powerful neighbor that Pyongyang has long relied on for economic and diplomatic support.

  6. Regardless of who the current leader’s grandfather was, I don’t think there’s any doubt that N.Korean missile/nuclear program is a mere deterrent, in the context of recent US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, threats to Iran, and meddling elsewhere. Therefore the assertion that “the United States cannot back down” appears to be problematic.

  7. Richard S says:

    Actually the obverse is true – South Korea only exists today to serve as an American buffer state, and the U.S. has tremendous influence over Seoul (far greater than any putative Chinese influence over Pyongyang).

    If a gang of outraged Orientals want to fight each other, America should sit back with the Russians and eat some popcorn 🙂

  8. For a man of great erudition, Patrick J. Buchanan falls far short in what he envisions here… Why would America (a nation of White, Judeo-Christians) allow a far away country to get fat on the back the Western World? Their program is moving along just as planned… Destabilize China by any and all means to relieve her of the gains (extraordinary currency reserves) made in the past forty years and set her back a thousand years. And there after build up India (South Asia) for the next round of destruction. Why would a people, mentioned above, who have achieved and there after enjoyed unprecedented level of prosperity for the past five centuries, in a world of limited resources,suddenly give up– notwithstanding the treasure trove of knowledge on how to control weaker nations–the inheritance of their progeny? Are they all self-hating?

  9. For accepting THAAD, China has imposed sanctions on Seoul, and promised the U.S. a commensurate strategic response.

    Seems reasonable.

    Minister Wang’s proposal for resolving the crisis: The U.S. and Seoul cancel the exercises and North Korea suspends the nuclear and missile tests.

    Excellent! The first rule of holes.

    Not a good idea however if you are a psychotic murderer like Imperial Washington.

  10. KenH says:

    Kim Jong Un looks more like a villain in an Austin Powers movie or an L.A. interior decorator than a ruthless leader.

    If it comes to war then we should only provide arms and limited air support. Pat’s former magazine, The American Conservative, ran a story around the time of the second Iraq war about the perils of war with N. Korea. According to estimates based on war games, the U.S. & S. Korea could sustain up to 75,000 casualties in the first six hours of the conflict owing to the massive amount of firepower N. Korea has concentrated on the 38th parallel. We could win but it would be at enormous cost in blood.

    After more than a decade of fighting combatants employing fourth generational warfare tactics it will be back to second and third generation warfare. We won’t be dealing with small bands of bearded religious fanatics with AK-47’s and RPG’s, but professional, well armed and disciplined soldiers. Hundreds of thousands of them.

    The U.S. can’t keep fighting every ally’s battles. The military geniuses must not have figured out that soon they will run out of white guys to do all the heavy fighting given our high suicide rate, below replacement birth rates and high median age. We need to encourage Japan and S. Korea need to step up to the plate.

  11. Corvinus says:

    Every year China comes to the defense of North Korea for something it says or does.

    Every year the United States and South Korea engage in joint military exercises.

    Every year some journalist states that we are closer to a nuclear war.

    Every year nothing of the sort occurs.

  12. @Diversity Heretic

    ehh, we deliberately left the NK question alone so we can put a thaad in SK 😛

  13. anon • Disclaimer says:

    Why doesn’t the USA just leave South Korea (and Japan and elsewhere in Asia-Pacific) and go home? Canada keeps no troops there. Nor does Mexico. Only America seems to feel this pathological need to micro-manage every inch of the world.

    “However, should US forces withdraw from the south, Seoul might build her own nuclear arsenal, followed by Japan. For Tokyo could not live with two Koreas possessing nukes, while she had none.”

    So what? Let Seoul and Tokyo develop their own nuclear weapons. France and the U.K. both have nuclear weapons. Probably North Korea would never have developed such weapons in the first place but for America’s military presence in the south and its aggressive foreign policies.

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  14. @anon

    “Why doesn’t the USA just leave South Korea (and Japan and elsewhere in Asia-Pacific) and go home?”

    I agree. Let the cowardly yellow dogs of South Korea defend themselves. I mean they got double the population of North Korea and 40x the economy.

    Israel is small and surrounded by tons of hostile Muslims, but IDF is a magnificent military force that more than defends Israel. It is feared all over.

    But these pansy S. Koreans still hide behind US master. A scaredy cat.

    But of course, we know why US won’t leave. US wants a land base on the Asian continent, and SK is its whore. Well-paid whore but a whore.

    But it is time for US to leave Korea. Those Korons are worthless.

  15. KenH says:

    Israel is small and surrounded by tons of hostile Muslims, but IDF is a magnificent military force that more than defends Israel. It is feared all over.

    Sure, and when Israel gets in a military jam or starts losing guess which nation gets to pick up their slack? Everyone knows, especially Izzy, that the American cavalry has their back and will ride to their rescue. But Israel never has our back.

    Some ally.

    • Agree: jacques sheete
    • Replies: @anon
  16. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    China made a huge blunder in allowing or not preventing North Korea to go nuclear. Kim’s final move may well be to launch missiles at South Korea, Japan, and Beijing–for allowing North Korea to be invaded and as last FU to Beijing for all the ill will that has built up over the years.

    Chinese foreign policy is even dumber than US foreign policy.

  17. anon • Disclaimer says:

    With an “ally” like Israel, America doesn’t need an enemy. Just ask the guys on the Liberty.

  18. I have always wondered why why the United States doesn’t force Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan to pay for their own military defense. The Japanese should be allowed to reform their military. They should be allowed to form a defensive military pact with Taiwan and South Korea. Admittedly, they could never defeat China, a nation of over a billion people. However, they have a combined population of over 210 million people. If they developed a defensive posture and a world class navy, any Chinese aggression could be thwarted since the U.S. and Russia would both intervene and check any aggressive Chinese posturing. I would hope that any Chinese whining about such a development would be ignored by a Trump administration. Hopefully, one of the things a Trump administration would focus on would be scaling back our role as the world’s policeman and not engage in empire maintenance.

  19. Is a Korean Missile Crisis Ahead?

    Only if the ruling morons want it to be.

    When yer a hammer, everything looks like a nail, apparently.

  20. Art says:

    With the public killing of his brother, the world has had it with N Korea’s ruler. This guy is to unstable – he has to go!

    China has the resources and connections with N Korean people, too effect a coup. With China’s determination, it can happen. They can maintain their current country to country situation with a different ruler.

    It is the only rational thing to do, in order to avoid a war that no one wants.

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