The final chapter before America strikes North Korea

Trump's success in passing his tax bill is a major achievement and one that in the long run could make the world a safer place. It is the first of two critical elements that can temporarily reinvigorate the US economy. The second is to restructure the US debt burden but that is at the moment a little way ahead.

As discussed in Breaking the Code of History (BTCH), a strong economy allows for a strong defence capability without which America cannot face down the Chinese economic and military challenge to its hegemonic status. However, as part of the ongoing escalation of tensions between the two major powers, North Korea has become the pilot war of our time (see BTCH).

Diplomatic overtures by America have failed to dissuade Kim to stop his intentions from manifesting nuclear weapons. Kim’s launch of a heavy lifting ICBM last week was a step too far for the US and makes action imperative in the near term. Sanctions in their current form will not bite hard enough to bring a change to his regime, with the exception of the Chinese stopping their oil and power exports which would quite literally turn the lights off in North Korea. This is a point that we have been making for the past 18 months and the Chinese refusal to do so despite Trump's best efforts, places the Chinese in the view of the world and Trump as an ally of North Korea and thus an enemy of America, with the righteous indignation on the side of Trump and his people. This element is not to be underestimated as to increasing the severity of the options of the US military in a pre-emptive strike. However, if the determined US attempt towards a diplomatic resolution has done one thing, it has made clear the Chinese challenge to American power to the broader public.

Consequently, we are now in the last chapter of the run up to the Korean pilot war which script is in essence very simple. Either Kim stops his path to nuclear weapons, which we know he will not, or China stops its exports of oil and power, which we believe, Xi will not, even as America ratchets up the military pressure, as he would lose face. Or America strikes North Korea. As the former two options in my opinion are zero and very slim respectively, the last option is now all but inevitable.

So, what will an American strike look like? Well, there might in all likelihood be special forces on the ground operating in their old cold war role as intelligence gatherers but their ability to solve the problem kinetically against a large well-trained and determined adversary is limited. Thus, air and missile strikes will be used against Kim's leadership, ballistic missiles, nuclear warheads, nuclear facilities and the chemical stockpiles.

America has already met our minimum force build-up criteria of three carriers operating in theatre. Thus, we should expect a strike any time soon. One further chilling thought is that since the end of the Cold War, the Russians in particular have moved to a first use strategy of nuclear weapons. Thus, in this period of changing values around the use of nuclear weapons, it is not out of the question that America might use small, tactical nuclear weapons to ensure that both Kim and his weapons do not survive the first strike. Drastic as it seems, the longer a conventional war endures, the higher will be the casualties of the South Koreans.

One further note is that although American policy makers will always seek to limit the casualties of its South Korean allies, they will nevertheless prioritise the minimisation of their own potential casualties from a North Korean nuclear strike on the American mainland over the loss of South Koreans in a pre-emptive war, much as was the calculation over the strategy in Germany to stop an invasion by the USSR in the Cold War.

Looking ahead, I believe that the Americans will be successful, however short or long the conflict, and that will leave a rudderless North Korea that America will not seek to integrate with the south, but rather it will leave the problem with the Chinese to rebuild. However, once this pilot war is over, I would expect the American-Chinese trade war to start with vengeance and part of that will include a US debt restricting with the Chinese losing out the most.

One last point is that in the ultimate, geopolitical situation, such as North Korea's, the value of allies is measured in the military contribution that they make; contributions that can be repaid in economic advantages, such as the ones Britain so needs in a post-Brexit world. Hence, what could Britain contribute militarily that is meaningful to the might of America? Well, if our aircraft carriers were up operational with their full F35 air wings, they would be immensely valuable. But they are not and nor will they be for years. We did lend some Rivet Joint signals intelligence aircraft to the Americans, whic have been in theatre for months. We might send a few special forces' teams to support any on the land intelligence gathering efforts, but that would be just a token. However, there is one thing that the US Navy would value above all else: 2 type-45 destroyers protecting their 3 vital carriers with their Samson radars far beyond the range of their own ships. But where are they all? On the dock at Portsmouth with engine failures and crew shortages. This is not just a national disgrace, but a hugh, lost opportunity to forge closer links with America that would inevitably translate into an economic benefit.

Comments

Hair raising but sounds logical, something has to give and the US cannot just sit there allowing NK (and China) to build up deadly forces and threaten.