East Asian Affairs · Political Theory

The Case Against Shooting Down North Korea’s ICBM

In a much talked about New Years speech, Kim Jong-Un told his country, and the world that his country, the DPRK, was in the “final stages” before the testing of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or ICBM. So then the question is what’s next, or more simply, what to do about it? In this author’s view the idea of simply shooting the ICBM out of the sky seems simple enough, however the geo-political consequences, and repercussions could be disastrous for the United States, and its friend and ally in the region the Republic of Korea. Should we indeed decide to shoot the missile out of the sky using the newly installed THAAD missile defense system in the ROK we can count on a multitude of almost certain reactions. One is the sealing off of any hope of being able to systematically engage with the DPRK on issues of mutual importance, including their nuclear weapons program. Once we’ve shot down the missile we can also expect for the ROK to accelerate rather than shelve plans to assassinate Kim Jong-Un in a commando raid on Pyongyang which could trigger a larger conflagration. The idea that China, and Russia will respond to the first ever real world launching of the THAAD platform on their doorstep in North East Asia is wholly plausible. We can expect for them to respond with robust, and coordinated actions which would seek to negate the existence of the THAAD in South Korea, and also bolster a mutual ally in North Korea. This means more bomber fly overs, more covert activities like the one in 2012 which resulted in the assassination attempt on United States ROK ambassador Mark Lippert, as well as a strengthening of Russo-Sino bonds in other areas of mutual cooperation. Needless to say I am against the idea of shooting down the ICBM should it even become a viable target for one simple fact: Negotiations. The talks which have been going on during the interim of the Obama administrations final months in office have facilitated nothing and it seems by all accounts that the Trump Administration is equally not willing to stray from either the six party talks, or the bilateral talks between the U.S. and China which were set up by the erstwhile Obama administration. However a new Bush Center report authored by some of the same people who came up with the six party talks during the early days of the George W. Bush administration, have released guidelines which the Trump administration would be well to heed. Chief amongst these suggestions is not reviving the six party talks which have been defunct for the entire Obama administration. By getting fresh “Trumpian” eyes on the situation, and with Trump’s insistence to consummate “The Art of the Deal” hopefully we can see our way through such a harrowing episode without risking American prestige or foundering the new administrations already tenuous political capital.

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