Distant Thunder: The Crisis Coming in Korea

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38 NORTH

Distant Thunder: The Crisis Coming in Korea

The world is not going to step aside and wait while the Congress ponders the fate of the president of the United States. Events of greater magnitude in the long term will grind ahead thousands of miles away from the impeachment proceedings in Washington. In the next few months the situation in Korea, where a nuclear-armed DPRK is terrifyingly close to developing intercontinental-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of carrying thermonuclear warheads, could go from very bad to much, much worse.

To review: In June 2018, when US President Trump met with the DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, there was actually a chance to begin a sensible and effective approach to North Korea. That would not have led to quick satisfaction of US demands for the North’s denuclearization, but it could at least have put in place a process to begin scaling back the threat and enhancing overall stability on the peninsula so that today there would be some guardrails in place.

Over the past eight months, since the failed Hanoi Summit last February, that opening appears to have narrowed to near nothing. The outcome of the October 5 meeting in Stockholm suggests it may already have disappeared. If Pyongyang has decided it has a viable option to move to full and final development of its most fearsome weapons while the US sinks into months of savage internal political warfare, then East Asia, in fact the entire Western Pacific, will in a flash become more dangerous than it has been at any time since World War II.

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