* Opinion: President Trump’s Maximum Pressure campaign has, as planned, become a threat to the Kim regime’s survival. Average North Koreans are now enjoying more access to outside information than ever before and their money can buy them whatever they want. Kim is unable to stop the free market, but he’s started imposing life sentences on his citizens for contacting the outside world.
In the short span of one year, Kim has changed tone from turning the U.S. and Seoul into ‘a sea of fire’ to ‘okay, we are willing to denuclearize.’ As a result, Kim has embarked on an unprecedented charm offensive.
Kim Jong-un may believe that his diplomatic efforts will help him “ride out” the Trump administration, but make no mistake: His promises of denuclearization are empty. The regime continues developing its nuclear weapons program, evading sanctions, violating international law and committing atrocious human rights violations.
He will not let inspectors into his nuclear facilities and refuses to allow anyone into his prison camps. Kim will never give up his nukes under any circumsfehastances, which is why diplomacy — referred to by the Trump administration as “Phase One” — will fail.
If the meeting occurs, Kim and Trump will sit down and discuss Kim’s terms for denuclearization, which will include: Signing a Peace Treaty, lifting all sanctions and removing U.S. troops from the peninsula — to name a few.
Trump, who now has a National Security Advisor with a backbone, will be negotiating his Art of the Deal from a position of strength.
And while Trump has referred to his deal as Peace Through Strength, he has also said that Phase Two will commence should Phase One fail.
Because North Korea will never give up their nukes and because Trump won’t allow this global threat to grow under his watch — regardless of how duped the South Koreans may currently be by North Korea’s “allure” — Trump is prepared to place America First, geopolitically, and do what we must to prevent this nuclear threat and disgrace to humanity from continuing-as-is any longer, i.e. Phase Two.
Phase Two, in my interpretation, means a surgical strike on Kim Jong-un’s nuclear facilities. This is a strike that could cave the facility ceiling in enough to render the entire site inoperable. And because North Korea is such a small country, such a strike would set their program back years and cause the regime to take the U.S. demand for denuclearization seriously.
The vast majority of North Korea watchers are against Phase Two because they fear North Korea’s ‘nuclear apocalypse’ rhetoric. But North Korea is a paper tiger. They are not going to get suicidal over a couple black eyes, or, a “bloody nose” — as the administration calls it. If Phase Two is done properly, there will be no conflict.
Doing Phase Two properly is much easier said than done. First, North Korea must not believe that their sovereignty is under attack — which will be difficult to convince them of while we are dropping bombs on them. To mitigate this, the U.S. should not advance its strategic placement of troops. If anything, the U.S. should pull all troops back so that the regime will look and see that we are not in an invasive posture. Second, a massive information operation to stabilize the conflict spiral should commence.
The people of North Korea must be informed that the U.S. has no intention of dropping any more bombs or invading their country, and will only do so if the regime decides to retaliate. This will pressure the regime against retaliation and have the added benefit of empowering the North Korean population with a democratic voice against the regime. If the regime retaliates, the North Korean people should know that any who support the U.S. in the war will be handsomely rewarded.
Nobody wants a war on the Korean peninsula, especially not me. I have family in Korea and this question has kept me awake at night for years – if not decades. In the middle of the night, when I wake up thinking about the question of bombing North Korea, my deductive reasoning always leads me back to one conclusion: We must make hard choices now so that the choices aren’t harder and costlier when our kids have to make them … because we decided to kick the can down the road another decade for fear of what the paper tiger might do. We cannot kick this can down the road another year, much less another decade.
I am NOT saying we should pursue regime change. The regime could remain (a deplorable thought, but possibly acceptable if Kim denuclearizes and gives his people freedom). It is possible that the Kim regime could Americanize over time and let’s be blunt here: We want North Korea and all communist dictatorships to Americanize.
What I AM saying, however, is that it is time for North Korea to change its ways drastically or face the consequences. We should not tolerate this rogue regime behaving in its traditional pattern for another year, much less another decade or more. Because the regime will not change without force, Phase Two is the only option they’ve left us, and is therefore, necessary.
Mike Bassett served his country honorably as a Soldier, contractor and civil servant from 1998 – 2018 in many inside-the-Beltway and overseas positions directly related to Korean Peninsula matters. He holds a BA and MIS from American University – School of International Service and a graduate certificate from Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies. His interests include: PSYOPS, Pyongyangology, Cold War Syndrome, North Korean defector assistance, the paranormal and Viking death metal music. He resides in Iowa with his wife and their 25lb. cat, Grumpy.