Tempered bluster

 08 Nov 2017 - 18:25

The Peninsula

Those who thought Donald Trump will shoot from the hip against Pyongyang in South Korea would have been disappointed. So would have been the incorrigible North Korean leader Kim Jong un whose regime must have felt deflated for not being provoked by the US President’s now-so-familiar bluster.

Washington and Seoul are technically at war with Pyongyang since the Korean War ended because of a ceasefire and no peace treaty being signed. Trump’s visit comes just weeks after South Korea and the United States concluded vaunted military exercises that ratcheted up tensions on the Peninsula.

The war games over the years have kept tensions on the boil for years. US rivals China and Russia have always maintained the stance that Washington’s muscle flexing in the region has been a dampener for peace efforts.

After holding talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the South Korean capital, Seoul, Trump will reach China, probably the most important leg of his Asian tour. Chinese President Xi Jinping, upbeat after being re-elected for another five-year term, will look forward to hosting Trump just months after the US President dined with him in his US golfing retreat. The two leaders share a good relationship and officials on both sides will seek to cement bilateral ties over the apparent bonhomie.

An anti-missile defence system deployed by the United States in South Korea has riled China and talks will definitely take up Thaad. The Terminal High-altitude Area Defence (Thaad) is an advanced missile interceptor system that cruises into space and prevents an attacking missile from reaching its target. It is an ideal system to counter an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). The United States has stationed the Thaad in South Korea to intercept a threat from North Korea. Pyongyang’s recent proclivity to be launch-happy has prompted Washington to hasten the deployment of the interceptor system on the soil of its Asian ally.

The North’s Communist and isolationist policies have made it an international pariah. However, with support from traditional allies China and Russia, North Korea has been apparently been able to hold its own.

Xi will likely take up the Thaad issue with Trump, besides the two sides holding talks over trade and ways to rein in North Korea’s egregious designs.

Going by the circumstances, it is nearly impossible to rein in North Korea with talks and diplomacy alone. The isolationist policies of Kim are meant to keep his population’s attention away from internal failings. It is not in his interest to find a solution to the issue all the while getting stronger with help of armaments.