Asia News Network commentators propose measures to address the looming crisis. Here are excerpts:

ONLY TWO REALISTIC OPTIONS FOR TRUMP

Justin Fendos

The Korea Herald, South Korea

I think it is important to go over a few things about North Korea.

First, let’s get over this idea of nuclear disarmament. For the last decade, North Korea has spent about one-third of its entire national income every year on weapons development. That’s not one-third of its military budget, not one-third of its government budget, that’s a third of all the money they have. Let that sink in for a moment.

North Korea has effectively bet everything on weapons development, believing that better weapons will secure a better future.

If you were in their shoes, would you just give up the weapons you invested everything in? Probably not. These are the weapons you researched by bankrupting your country and putting your people through poverty and starvation. They are all you have left.

Well, 2016 contained an important moment that told us a lot about Pyongyang’s intentions. Back then, there was this thing called the Kaesong industrial park, a complex of factories where North Korean labourers made products sold by South Korean companies. It was a very profitable venture for North Korea, something Seoul was using to make Pyongyang more economically dependent. Last year, North Korea willingly let the complex be closed, cutting off a very significant source of income. This can only be interpreted as the North’s rejection of economic dependence.

Now let’s get over this ridiculous idea of a “surgical strike”.

This phrase somehow suggests you could order an attack on North Korea without fear of retaliation. That’s nonsense.

About 8,000 pieces of artillery and rocket launchers are aimed at Seoul. Any attack on North Korea would result in immediate retaliation with about 300,000 rounds of rockets and artillery raining down every hour on the second-largest city in the world. Casualties would not be in the hundreds or even the thousands. Think more about those two numbers multiplied together.

Finally, let’s appreciate some cultural differences. Saving face is very important for Asians. Especially when you are the leader of a clan or group like Mr Kim Jong Un is, it is important that those who follow you believe you are capable of securing benefits and respect.

In many ways, this is what North Korea wants right now: respect.

Mr Kim has bet everything on weapons, promising his followers that things will be better if they can just finish developing nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Now that they have more or less accomplished both goals, Mr Kim’s followers are eagerly awaiting whatever fruits he has promised them. And in this expectation, Mr President (Donald Trump), lies your opportunity.

You have a simple choice, sir. On the one hand, you can save Mr Kim some face by making a small concession to recognise his success in weaponising. This will open the door to an opportunity for dialogue.

On the other hand, you can completely forgo such an overture, putting pressure on Mr Kim through the expectations of his followers by depriving him of the attention and respect his followers crave, much like President Barack Obama did with his “strategic patience”.

These are your only two realistic options, Mr President. Now, please stop talking about war. It makes us nervous.

JAPAN MUST ENHANCE DEFENCE

Editorial

The Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan

To prepare against the growing threat from North Korea, it is important for Japan to steadily enhance its overall defence capability.

The White Paper on the defence of Japan for 2017 has been released. The annual paper says North Korea’s nuclear and missile development represents a “threat that has entered a new stage”.

In the light of North Korea’s launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and other provocations, the paper has raised the degree of threat posed to Japan.

North Korea has, so far this year, test-fired ballistic missiles over 10 times. In March, it launched four ballistic missiles simultaneously, and three of them splashed down in waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The paper sounds an alarm by referring for the first time to North Korea’s “enhancement of accuracy and operational capabilities” needed for a “saturation attack”, in which a large number of missiles would be launched simultaneously to break through the defence network of a targeted country.

There is no doubt that North Korea’s technological strength has been rapidly advancing.

As North Korea has repeatedly declared it will attack Japan, the Defence Ministry must expedite its efforts to realise a defence system of eight Aegis-equipped destroyers carrying the Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) interceptor missiles and to improve the ground-based Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) guided missiles and the like. It is also necessary for the ministry to decide on newly introducing a ground-based Aegis system.

Isn’t the time ripe for the ministry to positively consider the possibility of Japan possessing the capability to strike enemy bases?

As to the impact China would have on the security environment in Asia, the White Paper calls it “a matter of strong concern”, thus going a step further than the analysis in last year’s paper.

The expansion in the range of activities taken by China’s military vessels and aircraft must be watched.

The paper also points out there is a possibility that activities of the Chinese military “may become brisk” in the Sea of Japan, in addition to those in the East China Sea.

The Self-Defence Forces must redouble their surveillance activities by ever more closely cooperating with the Japan Coast Guard, it states.

SPIRAL OF DISTRUST ESCALATING

Editorial

China Daily, China

First it was United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stating Washington’s willingness to talk with Pyongyang, if the latter halts its missile stunts.

Then US President Donald Trump warned the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea against making “any more threats” to his country, which he promised “will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen”.

Neither seems to have worked, though. Pyongyang’s attitude, which Mr Tillerson deems critical to the US engaging it in dialogue, remains defiant.

Responding to Mr Tillerson’s offer, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said at the Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Manila that his country “under no circumstances” will put its nuclear weapons or ballistic missiles on the negotiating table. And on Wednesday, the Korean People’s Army announced it is “carefully examining” an operational plan for “enveloping fire” around the US military bases at Guam with its newly acquired missile capabilities.

The latest round of sabre-rattling between Pyongyang and Washington is particularly ominous because, although both parties sent “mixed messages” and hinted at a degree of flexibility, both set impossible preconditions.

So while it is good that neither has slammed the door shut on potential talks, it looks increasingly like a ploy to sabotage that prospect.

Pyongyang has justified its plan for missile strikes on Guam with Washington’s “reckless military provocation”, while the latter has employed the same pretext for refusing dialogue. Over time, this mutual finger-pointing has pulled both into a spiral of escalating distrust and hostility, which is the biggest obstacle to resolving the crisis.

The Straitstimes

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