Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018|2 a.m.
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Sure, President Donald Trump may really like the “military choice,” maybe a “pre-emptive strike” on selected targets. Or possibly not. That’s why whatever he believes or fantasizes is ambiguous, strategically speaking.
This term, “tactical uncertainty,” has actually been around for a while. President Moon Jae-in almost a year ago defended his acceptance of the implementation of a counter-missile battery for Terminal High Altitude Location Defense, stating it was “required to maintain strategic obscurity.” He was roundly criticized for what seemed like a waffling response, but one may justify this policy, strategically, as another way of stating, “Keep ’em guessing.”
I was reminded of the term in a short article by Anthony Paul, an Australian journalist who when strolled Asia for the Reader’s Digest and Fortune. “What’s to be done?” Paul asked. In anything-can-happen mode, he noted you can’t rule out a coup in Pyongyang “instigated by China” or “a strike by some still-secret non-nuclear U.S. weapon.” Realistically, though, he needed to acknowledge “no recourse besides continuing diplomatic talks.”
These words are timelier than ever in view of Kim Jong Un’s call for North-South dialogue and wishes for North Korean involvement in the Pyongcheong Winter Olympics. The United States now deals with a policy issue. What if Kim demands cancelation of yearly U.S. and South Korean dry run? And how about those sanctions as strengthened last month by the U.N. Security Council?
No way would the United States wish to get on the incorrect side of Moon, who has actually appeared cooperative with his American interlocutors because winning the special election as the liberal hero in the wake of the Candlelight Revolution that caused the death of the arch-conservative Park Geun-hye.
It’s that uncertainty that triggers Anthony Paul to conjure U.S. policy “drifting into a period of exactly what may be dubbed ‘strategic obscurity,'” implying “strategic persistence at threat of ending up being impatience and a consequent improved hazard of military action.”
The reality is the Americans have no idea what to do. They’re discussing amongst themselves how to appear broad-minded and cooperative, yet strong-willed and noncompromising.
OK, it will be easy for Washington not to get too delighted over Kim’s rhetorical grow about that “nuclear button” on his desk. He’s not going to purchase a nuclear strike against the United States. It’s too obvious exactly what would occur as a result, that is, the damage of his routine, completion of the Kim dynasty and a lot of other holy hell that nobody can predict.
At the very same time, Kim is not about to abandon his nuclear program. He’s made that so clear, so frequently, in so many methods, that just a fool would believe he ‘d desert the entire show if provided proper reward. Given, many fools do dream of a deal where, yes, if just we ‘d stop those war games, those programs of naval and air supremacy in the seas and skies so close to North Korea, then he ‘d undoubtedly state, fine, say goodbye to nukes and say goodbye to discuss rockets speeding warheads towards the White House.
In the real life, however, all anyone can picture is “freeze for freeze,” a cessation of rocket and nuclear screening in reaction to the United States and South Korea canceling the yearly war games that are supposed to begin while the Olympics remain in full sway, however that’s not a smart idea either. Having won this concession, Kim would not stop there. He would also be demanding an end to sanctions while refusing, as always, to work out an end to his nuclear program.
In the Olympic spirit, however, remedy for stress is still possible. Moon is so eager to produce reconciliation and dialogue that he may be amenable to an offer that at least ensures the Olympics will be devoid of missile screening, let alone terrorism. The Americans, anxious to preserve the alliance, may have to go along, to appear cooperative and helpful.
If “strategic ambiguity” is not the last answer or service, it’s still more effective to the suffering and difficulty that sides need to prevent.
Donald Kirk has actually been a writer for Korea Times, South China Early morning Post many other newspaper and magazines. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.