Beyond the Cusp

May 27, 2018

Story Why Trump Cancelled Korea Summit

 

The story we hear from most news organizations is that President Trump is thinking like a small time real estate broker where walking away from a deal is part of the negotiation tactic. They claim he is trying to look big and tough and out man Kim Jong-un and in the process is becoming even more of a clown. They claim he has now brought the Korean Peninsula and the world to the brink of Armageddon. The accusations don’t stop there. He has been said to be acting like a schoolyard bully throwing a tantrum just to get more attention. What has been amusing about this last accusation, and to some extent most of the others, is that it more accurately describes the actions of Kim Jong-un and the entirety of the North Korean power structure including, or maybe especially, the military.

 

Let us put this as plainly as we know how, or at least try. Let’s pretend we are the President of the United States. We have appeared to have pressured the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un into agreeing to the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and to end any ballistic missile tests and nuclear tests. The North Korean strongman also has agreed to forgo the normal protestations of upcoming already known and planned joint South Korean-American military maneuvers. There has been a date set to meet in Singapore. Then when administration personnel sent to Singapore to work out the logistics of the summit attempt to contact North Korea to engage them in the planning and set up formalities, the North Koreans completely shut them out refusing to allow any communications. An administration senior official connected to the planned talks said, “The summit was halted because we couldn’t get them (North Korea) to pick up the phone. There was radio silence.” In other words, it was impossible to even set up the seating or achieve any of the necessities when the other side is refusing to even confirm who will be attending from their side, when anyone will be arriving, or even if they actually expect there to be talks. The North Korean actions were an initial signal that they were backing out of the talks.

 

This was accompanied during the same time-frame by two broken promises, two breaches of their former agreements. The North Koreans issued a major objection to legal military exercises between the South Koreans and Americans which they had stated they would accept without protest. Then they refused to denuclearize in a complete manner or to permit their denuclearization to be verifiable in any way. They basically were hedging away from everything they had stated in order to have the meeting such that they were now to use these items as bargaining chips in an effort, most likely, to gain economic relief, sanctions relief and some form of aid package which would include large amounts of food and energy to be given over by the United States in order to have a second meeting and for them to make these same promises a second time. They would demand these relief packages in aid and sanctions relief almost immediately for a meeting later. They would then renege on further discussions and return to their former habits of ballistic missile tests and nuclear research and bomb tests along with intermittent bluster about destroying Guam or possibly upping the ante to Hawaii. This was the exact same actions that previous meetings with North Korea had taken and probably should have been expected, and might have been expected, by the White House and administration members.

 

But even this was not the straw that broke the Trump’s back; there was one last insult which sent everything over the edge. North Korean Vice Minister Choe Son Hui, in addition to officials from North Korea calling Vice President Mike Pence a “dummy,” threatened, “Whether the United States will meet us at a meeting room or encounter us at nuclear-to-nuclear showdown is entirely dependent upon the decision and behavior of the United States.” This is old school communist bluster of meet our demands or face complete and total annihilation. This did not work with President Reagan and it will work even less with President Trump. If there is one thing President Trump knows, it is mindless bluster and extreme hot air, both of which he has proven countless times to the media’s delight. President Trump knows that Kim Jong-un, despite being as unbalanced as he has shown, is not near stupid enough to trigger a nuclear exchange with the United States. That is especially true with President Trump in the White House being advised by former CIA Chief Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, former Marine four-star General as Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, whose nickname was “Mad dog,” and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton as National Security Advisor who more than once claimed, “The Secretariat building in New York has thirty-eight stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” With this group around President Trump, how can anybody claim that Trump is the least sane person in the room?

 

Still, threaten President Trump with a nuclear stand-off was exactly the path that the North Korean’s decided was in their best interests and the disloyal opposition exploded at President Trump having the audacity to be offended and cancelling the summit. They honestly are advising that the United States should walk into a room and negotiate with a group which broke every previous agreement ever made with almost every former President for the past quarter century and who had just broken every agreed condition for the meeting and threatened to start a nuclear exchange. How much weaker a position would they prefer and how could one imagine one short of sending an aid package as a concession to get them to the table. Wait, that is the exact position every President has taken with Israel since President Jimmy Carter, both Democrat and Republican, when they demanded that Israel sacrifice land, release terrorists, eventually even terrorists with blood soaked hands, and sometimes both land and release terrorists. Thankfully, President Trump has taken a different track here as well and especially with his moving the Embassy to Jerusalem, many thanks for this.

 

President Trump and Kim Jong-un in Missile Face-off

President Trump and Kim Jong-un in Missile Face-off

 

President Trump knows as a businessman that one does not walk into a meeting in a position of surrender; you do not start any negotiations by surrender before even sitting down. President Trump was possibly going to let some of Kim Jong-un’s antics fall to the wayside and see what could be achieved at least through meeting head to head and actually talking. The problem was that Kim Jong-un heaped insult of refusal to even talk upon backtracking on every point and every other general insult he could find and then threatened war if President Trump did not do his bidding at the talks, it became obvious that Kim Jong-un was not taking President Trump seriously and was going to keep upping the level to see where he would balk and if President Trump meekly met him despite the ever rising levels of insult, then he had a measure of Trump as somebody he could walk right over. Now Kim Jong-un is very probably going to get an entirely different measure of President Trump as it is likely that President Trump will grant Kim Jong-un a brief amount of time to be the meek one and try to undo the damage he has wrought before upping the ante from the White House either through China or simply tightening the sanctions further. Now Kim Jong-un has been informed that this is a different President who is willing to only negotiate as equals and if you refuse that, then he will insist on negotiating with you once you surrender all but unconditionally and maybe even that.

 

As for the immediate future, it is in the better interest of Kim Jong-un if he finds the better judgement and comes to President Trump offering peace and honesty and forgets the one-upmanship. It will also be better for the people of North Korea for their “furious leader” to step off his high horse and find some means of joining the rest of the world striving for peace and not world conquest or even peninsula conquest. Unfortunately for the people of North Korea, Kim Jong-un is not all that concerned with their welfare but rather more concerned with appearing like a giant on the world’s stage. Kim Jong-un needs to learn that he is nowhere near a giant even on his peninsula as the South Korean economy and standard of living is so far and above that of North Korea that there is no comparison. Of course, it is that wealth which Kim Jong-un strives to take in order to steal everything from them as well and use their economic engine and manufacturing to bolster his military and forge greater nuclear research for better and more deadly nuclear warheads. There is a great amount of parallel between North Korea and Iran as there is between Kim Jong-un and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Both of these leaders believe they are a god or are in direct communication with their god. Both leaders are more interested in building their militaries and nuclear weapons capabilities and missile delivery systems than the welfare of their people. The main difference is that Kim Jong-un rules a bankrupt nation with an economy on life support and even that is failing while the other has economic problems but with excessively large infusions of cash over the past decade is now capable of causing great disturbances over the entirety of the Middle East. By cancelling the meeting with Kim Jong-un, President Trump has placed the gauntlet down gently in a controlled and nonthreatening manner in what we see as an attempt to settle this amicably without any threats or actual violence but firmly enough to send the message that unless Kim Jong-un capitulates and returns to civil behavior, then things will become more agitated and worse for the North Korean leader. Perhaps a shot directly at Kim Jong-un and placing an embargo on caviar, French champagne and fine cigars will hit him hard enough to make him see that President Trump is no fool and can directly strike at Kim Jong-un’s lifestyle.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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April 6, 2013

Is North Korea Sabre Rattling for Attention or Real Threat?

The sabre rattling by North Korean Dictator Kim Jong Un was notched up another level with the transfer of middle range ballistic missiles being deployed to the east coast threatening immediate launch ability. In the past such bellicose actions were simply a prelude to demands for emergency aid consisting of both funding and sizeable shipments of food to allow this financial wreck of a country to at least feed its military more so than feed its people. The problem this time is that we once again have a new semi-deity in charge and he is very young and likely going much further than his father or his father’s father in order to be taken more seriously. This is not to make him appear any greater to the outside world as much as it could be to convince the generals and others who might think the time might be ripe to replace the ruling family that he is amply ready and willing to use force. The problem is that we have little knowledge of the young Kim Jong Un which makes the question of how far he is willing to go in this brazen belligerence and whether this will turn out to be another North Korean ploy for aid or an actual threat to be taken deadly serious. When one adds the announced restart of the plutonium producing facility at Yongbyon the threats become even more real. The unfortunate truth is that it will not be clear which motivation is driving the threatening moves by North Korea until either the missiles have been launched or the plea for food and monetary aid and other possible demands are presented. In the meantime we also have no idea whether the actions taken by President Obama are prudent and will make the consequences clear so that Kim Jong Un or his Generals will be more likely to want to stand down or if he will feel that his leadership is being challenged and make Kim Jong Un far more likely to actually execute and act on his threats. And that begs the question that with absolutely no HUMIT (human intelligence) capabilities in North Korea, what are the actual capabilities currently available to the North Korean military? We are assuming that the North Koreans do not have ICBMs capable of striking mainland United States or even anywhere on Earth or if their longest range missiles are not even able to reach Hawaii. The one thing we know for certain is that most of what we know is uncertain.

Most pundits have made the argument that Kim Jong Un would never challenge the United States as he would have to know that the counter-strike would completely devastate his country. But does he honestly believe that or would he be more likely to believe that under the leadership of President Obama who has presumably frozen most of the funds for upkeep of the United States nuclear arsenal and who has spoken of unilaterally denuclearizing the United States as an example in order to convince the rest of the world to also give up their nuclear weapons that the United States deterrence has been weakened or destroyed to the point where it has become ineffective? Even the slightest uncertainty caused by these comments and policies and other actions by President Obama could cause sufficient doubt to embolden the young North Korean leader. Much might be directly dependent upon what his generals and other advisors have been telling him which again is a complete unknown to the West. As any planner or maker of policies will tell you, the worst thing they ever face is uncertainty and lack of reliable and credible intelligence, or as in the case of North Korea, almost no intelligence beyond satellite surveillance and offshore eavesdropping. The truth we all must realize is that we are dealing with an untested and inexperienced leader of a country which has little or nothing to lose who is ramping up his bellicose belligerence for reasons unknown, for what ends, we have no idea, whose aims are also completely unknown. We are aware that he was raised being taught that North Korea had military power that was equal or superior to anything the United States might possess and that he could be acting with a completely false set of concepts and suppositions about what a response from the United States might entail. Kim Jong Un could very well believe that he has the ability to strike the United States with a knockout blow which would preclude any retaliatory strike.

With such uncertainty it is difficult to decide what would be the most prudent plan to implement. The most crucial unknown is how Kim Jong Un would react to any actions taken by the United States, South Korea, Japan or others. We cannot even be assured that Kim Jong Un would react in a predictable manner should we convince China or Russia to intervene to try to step down the situation. Thus far President Obama has presented an initial show of potential for force which could be availed but has not made any direct threats and appears to be willing to take a muted response rather than respond to the threats from North Korea by returning threats in kind. The one advantage to facing an untested and unknown entity is that there can be no second guessing as everyone is in the same predicament of a lack of knowledge. The down side is that everybody is in the dark and those tasked with making the decisions have nowhere and no one to turn to for advice or options which contain any real degree of certainty based on knowledge and previous experiences. There will hopefully not be much room for second guessing once this situation has passed as that will mean it did not escalate beyond the point of no return as starting a war is the least desirable outcome, especially one that might very well include nuclear weapons use.

For many of us this feels vaguely familiar having lived through a few of these North Korean temper tantrums and breathed sighs of relief when the whole incident returned to calm with the agreement to pay tribute as a ransom. This time feels somewhat different, even more so than when Kim Jong-il succeeded his father, Kim Il-Sung. Let us hope that the difference is simply because we are dealing with the next generation in Kim Jong Un and not something more sinister and foreboding. Should this end well, or at least without resorting to violence, we will hopefully gain the advantage of gleaning an amount of familiarity with the workings of the mind of this new North Korean leader. It is said that experience can be a very hard teacher, let’s just pray that experience will be lenient and not take too big of a toll for this lesson.

There is one great consequence when writing articles about fast progressing situations; they have the annoying habit of changing on you while you are writing about them. This one has proven that theory and in grand style. While writing news arrived informing that North Korean authorities had warned that they would be unable to guarantee the safety of embassies, consulates and other facilities after April 10, and all should consider evacuating their missions amid soaring nuclear tensions. “Their communication said that from April 10, the North Korean government would be unable to guarantee the safety of embassies and international organizations in the country in the event of conflict. Our understanding is that the North Koreans were asking whether embassies are intending to leave, rather than advising them to leave,” according to a spokeswoman for Britain’s Foreign Office, according to AFP. This is a new wrinkle and raises the level of warnings and bellicose threats considerably and makes the idea that North Korea will be launching something around mid-month almost assured. The question now is what will they place atop the missile or missiles, the plural is significantly more likely, and where will they all be targeting? Would the North Koreans go so far as to launch a small nuclear warhead to detonate over a sizeable area of open Pacific Ocean just to prove their ability? Would they detonate EMP nuclear devices which have low yield with extremely high Gama radiation which initiates a massive electronic pulse which will destroy all unprotected electronic devices and power systems? Depending on the size and placement would determine the amount of damage which would result. Or worst case scenario would be including in their launchings one capsule into a polar orbit mimicking a weather satellite which was actually an EMP device designed to appear and transmit data similar to that of any regular weather satellite and a few days later as it passed over the central United States dropping it into the high atmosphere and detonating the device possibly destroying much of the North American power grid and incalculable electronic devices and systems across the entire continent. Whatever Kim Jong Un is hatching, my bet is there will not be many applauding his efforts and I am nervous that even fewer will be able to applaud after his little surprise is over. A young unproven dictator who may feel inadequate and insecure in his position is a very dangerous entity.

Beyond the Cusp

August 27, 2012

Is Egypt Pulling Another Buildup in the Sinai?

After the serious breach of security by Sinai terrorists which resulted in sixteen Egyptian troops being murdered and at least on armored personnel carrier stolen and subsequently destroyed while it was utilized to attack and cross into Israel and other vehicles stolen or damaged, it was reported that Egypt would be permitted some amount of leeway regarding the Camp David Accords to use troops to hunt down the terrorists. Within a week the Israelis filed a complaint claiming that Egypt had taken liberties with their cooperation and had moved heavy armor and anti-aircraft batteries into the Sinai, things way beyond what was necessary for hunting down the terrorists. Egypt, of course, claimed they had respected the truce and had Israeli permission for their actions. The rest of the world failed to react and simply hoped that whatever was the case, the two countries would work it out between themselves. Well, no such resolution resulted and the American and other peacekeepers were reported to have come under fire and then were quoted denying any such attack had occurred. Opinions on whether such an attack occurred are mixed and our feeling is that whether there had been an attack or not, at least the American troops would very likely have been instructed to deny such in order to keep a lid on everything and not stir up any controversy in this election season. Either way, there have been developments confirming the Egyptian presence in the Sinai with twenty to thirty M-60A3 Main Battle Tanks, numerous Dutch-produced YPR-765 armored personnel carriers as well as several Boeing-produced Avenger air defense system complete with Stinger surface-to-air missiles. One must wonder if such heavy armor would really be necessary for hunting terrorists and exactly what aircraft the Egyptians are expecting to be utilized by the terrorists in the Sinai.

Obviously, the Egyptians are using this excuse to remilitarize the Sinai Peninsula as they have placed most of these assets between the coastal city of El Arish and the border with Israel and Gaza. This has raised the expected suspicions and complaints from the Israelis who are viewing this as a provocation. Granted, this is nowhere near the provocation that resulted in the Six Day War in June of 1967 when the Egyptians and the Syrians massed major percentages of their combined armies on Israel’s northern and southern borders. Still, this is a healthy first move towards building a sizeable and menacing force abrogating the treaty between Israel and Egypt. This is made all the more serious when one considers the mention by numerous Egyptian spokespersons over the recent weeks claiming their intent to amend the Camp David Accords to allow Egypt to regain full sovereignty over every inch of the Sinai. This would be a definitive step in that direction. We expect that should Egypt be forced to back away from stationing such forces in the Sinai that their reply will be that they can no longer be expected to assist or to prevent any terror buildup and increased terror activity in the Sinai if they are not allowed to have necessary assets in place to enable their enforcing the peace. Egypt will very likely force a choice upon Israel of Egyptian troops and heavy equipment complete with a full array of military hardware for any and all necessities or increasingly deadly terrorist activities in the Sinai with the terrorists building a military presence free of Egyptian attempts to prevent such and likely Egyptian surreptitious assistance.

So, one may wonder what the reactions have been around the world. Well, from the vast majority of world bodies such as the United Nations and individual countries, the reaction has been an extreme silence. The United States has had a different reaction. Secretary of State Clinton has phoned her Egyptian counterpart to review Israeli complaints over these violations. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland commented for the press, “This call was in keeping with a series of contacts that we’ve had in recent days with both Egyptians and Israelis encouraging both sides to keep the lines of communication open between them, to talk directly about any issues of concern, and the importance of working through the security challenges in the Sinai in a way that, first and foremost, strengthens Egypt’s security, but also has a positive impact on the security of neighbors and the region as a whole.” This will likely produce stupendously negligible results. On the other hand, the United States Department of Defense has awarded an $8.7 million contract to United Technologies for support of F100-PW-229 engines for Egypt’s order of 20 F-16 Block 52 multi-role fighters. This should definitely have some results if this situation should continue to build, something many Middle East watchers have predicted ever since the Muslim Brotherhood took command in Egypt.

We here at BTC believe that Egyptian President Morsi has taken these steps as a test to gauge the Israeli response and the world’s resolve, or lack thereof, towards enforcing the peace between Israel and Egypt. This is very likely a test to see whether Egypt would pay any real price for abrogating the treaty with Israel. He should have asked us here as we could have saved him time and effort, the world could not care less how or if Egypt were to completely throw out any semblance of keeping to the limitations dictated in the Camp David Accord. But, on the other hand, Israel cannot be expected to lie down and play dead either. Granted that twenty to thirty heavy tanks along with the APCs and SAM sites are nowhere near the threatening level placed on the Israeli border in late May of 1967. Some military experts believe that one of the reasons that Israel reacted so forcefully to the Egyptian and Syrian provocations had as much to do with the rhetoric and the blockading of their southern port of Eilat as it did to the massive and rapid buildup. If this is the beginning of a gradual buildup by the Egyptians hoping that by slowly attaining the size force necessitated for a strike on Israel, we doubt it was the speed of the buildup in 1967 and was the actual size and that should President Morsi be planning on a gradual buildup we would advise him that at some point Israel will assume his intentions are to invade and act exactly as they had in early June of 1967. Testing Israeli resolve would be one way of guaranteeing Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ability to form a unity government with the general support of much of the nation. It would be advisable for the Egyptians not to take protestations from much of the Israeli press and numbers of their academicians along with the leaders of the leftist anti-settler and anti-Haredi movements as indications that the Israeli public is fragmented and not supportive of an Israeli response to a buildup on their border by the Egyptians. The Israeli people as a whole are far more patriotic, nationalistic and conservative in their views of the outside world than they are portrayed by the media and their leftist allies. An overt buildup by Egyptian forces to any point where, when considered with the national rhetoric of the likes of Yusuf al-Qaradawi in his tirades against Jews, Israel and the West in general, there is a credible threat of imminent invasion, Israel will react very similarly as they did on June 7, 1967 and initiate action rather than await attack as Golda Meir had done with nearly catastrophic results before the Yom Kippur War which began on October 6, 1973 and resulted in heavy Israeli casualties before the battles turned in Israel’s favor. Any Egyptian buildup of any significance must take into account the Israelis likely response to such a provocation, especially with all the additional threats facing Israel on every other border and from Iran. Such a provocation could be the match that lights the very short fuse to an Israeli general strike to resolve multiple problems with one decisive initial action. An Egyptian buildup on the Israeli border is not an advisable set of actions even if it is solely being pursued in order to distract the Egyptians from their daily nest of growing problems and discontent. Egypt might be better served by addressing the shortcomings and taking care of their own house before threatening their neighbor’s house.

Beyond the Cusp

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