September 20, 2017 12:48
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Monday that the Pentagon has military options for North Korea that do not put Seoul at grave risk. He declined to elaborate what those options may be. The reason the U.S. has so far refrained from launching a military strike against North Korea is because such a move would jeopardize the lives of South Koreans, and the prevailing view has been that the U.S. does not really have any military options. But Mattis' latest comments suggest otherwise.
Surgical strikes against North Korean military targets are apparently at the top of the list. Such strikes would not paralyze North Korea's nuclear weapons but could send Pyongyang a serious warning and possibly cripple it enough to be unable to strike back by launching a full-blown war. Other options are cyber attacks and a virtual maritime blockade through naval inspections. Although there is no 100-percent guarantee of the safety of South Korean lives, the measures are highly unlikely to escalate into a full-blown war.
The U.S. appears to believe it has pretty much exhausted its resources when it comes to sanctions against North Korea. Officials are waiting for the effects of the latest UN resolution, which clamps down on oil shipments to the North, to kick in. But there are still no signs of the North halting its relentless provocations.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un fired a mid-range missile over Japan just three days after the latest resolution was adopted. Now, not only Mattis, but also the U.S. secretary of state, White House national security adviser and UN ambassador are warning that Washington is not far away from picking a military option. The Chinese government mouthpiece Global Times said in April that China does not necessarily have to intervene in the event of a U.S. surgical strike on North Korean nuclear facilities.
As North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles become a reality, the entire world has begun to recognize the North as a grave threat. The U.S. Senate no longer appears willing to stand by and watch. The top U.S. official in charge of evacuating American citizens from South Korea in the event of war visited the South recently. The visit was said to be routine, but the timing nonetheless raises serious concerns.
The U.S, Japan, China and Russia are all holding military exercises right now. Russian media reported that the latest drills are being held under the pretext of U.S. strikes on North Korea. Yet against this backdrop, the South Korean government still seems to be lost in another dimension.
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