Links – August 14, 2017

Excellent article by Vipin Narang and Ankit Panda on why Donald Trump’s threats against North Korea are so destabilizing. MAD doesn’t apply.

Second- and third-order effects of foreign policy actions. And every action has them. This is something that Trump chooses not to understand, or perhaps is incapable of understanding.

Seven experts: Are we on the brink of war with North Korea? Probably not.

Letter from 62 members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats, asking Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to urge Trump to STFU on war with North Korea. Read More

North Korea Reaches Out?

I had a conversation last night on Twitter with Ankit Panda (@nktpnd), who has been following the North Korean situation. Panda is a senior editor with The Diplomat magazine.

I contend that the North Korean statement issued in response to Donald Trump’s “fire and fury” threat contains an invitation to negotiations. As is often the case, that invitation is not stated as such. Diplomacy guards such invitations so that nobody loses face when they don’t work. Neither Trump nor his people understand this, and they ignore the State Department and are doing their best to gut it. This is the sort of thing that the State Department specializes in. Read More

Links – May 23, 2017

Russia has been violating the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, but the United States won’t say exactly what the violation is. The INF Treaty prohibits intermediate-range missiles with nuclear warheads. Back in the 1980s, both the US and Russia had such missiles aimed at each other in Europe. The problem with missiles like this is that there is no warning time whatsoever, and thus a heavy motive to strike the other party first. James Action suggests a strategy for getting the treaty back on track. Top photo from here: Soviet inspectors and their American escorts standing among dismantled Pershing II missiles in Colorado as other missile components are destroyed nearby under the INF Treaty, January 1989. Read More

North Korea Tests Another Missile

A devoted corps of North Korea watchers analyzes information coming out of North Korea on its missile and nuclear tests. I sometimes chime in, but missiles are not my thing. Much of the conversation takes place on Twitter, so you can see people figuring things out in real time.

First, a summary of this latest test. It seems to have been a successful test of an intermediate-range ballistic missile that North Korea is calling the Hwasong-12. This article summarizes the early information and analysis and links to many of the people who participate in those discussions. Read More

Estimating North Korea’s Nukes

David Albright offers an estimate of North Korea’s nuclear weapons that is not too far from mine. As he notes, any estimates have uncertainties upon uncertainties.

President Donald Trump’s bluster at North Korea has died down, but it could start up again at any time. Since North Korea’s nuclear weapons, or the threat of them, figure in the situation, we now need the best estimates possible.

Although Albright’s estimates are only slightly higher than mine, there are other considerations that I took into account implicitly. This post makes those considerations explicit. Read More

Mike Pence Isn’t Kim Jong Un’s Daddy

US leaders have put on their best stern-father faces toward North Korea and China. On his trip to the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas, Vice President Mike Pence headed outside, against warnings, to stare into the North. “It was important that they […] see our resolve in my face,” he told the US press.

At the White House Easter Egg Roll, President Donald Trump declared North Korea has “got to behave.” He has also tweeted warnings: “I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!” “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them!” “I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will!” Read More