North Korea Fears ‘Regime Change’ Strike

Exclusive: Tensions keep rising on the Korean peninsula with North Korea test-firing missiles and the U.S. dispatching a naval task force, but no sign of President Trump’s proposed negotiations, writes Jonathan Marshall.

By Jonathan Marshall

Japanese citizens had every reason to be flustered on Monday when North Korea fired four missiles into the Sea of Japan as a show of strength. But they — and every American who cares about the risk of getting dragged into a nuclear war to defend Japan and South Korea — need to think harder about how to end the cycle of military provocations that are escalating in the region to a potentially deadly end.

North Korean missile launch on March 6, 2017.

Declaring that he stands “100 percent” behind Japan, President Trump blasted North Korea’s demonstration as “a clear challenge to the region and the international community,” and a “new phase” of Pyongyang’s threat to America’s allies. His ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, declared that the world “won’t allow” North Korea to continue following its “destructive path.”

Meanwhile, the head of the U.S. Pacific Command announced that “continued provocative actions” by North Korea, including its missile launches, confirmed the wisdom of Washington’s decision to begin this week deploying a long-awaited missile defense system to South Korea.

Instead of contributing to regional peace, however, that deployment decision only inflamed regional tensions with two major powers that share Washington’s dismay over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Furious China officials immediately threatened unspecified countermeasures, and Russian officials condemned the deployment as well, noting that it could be expanded to neutralize their own military capabilities.

Provoking Pyongyang

Mentioned only in passing — if at all — in most news stories was the context for the latest of Pyongyang’s seemingly random acts of aggressive militarism.

Korea experts had in fact long predicted that the North would — as it does every year — undertake “military provocations” to protest the start of the latest annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises on March 1. The same day those exercises began, the Wall Street Journal reported ominously that “an internal White House review of strategy on North Korea includes the possibility of military force or regime change to blunt the country’s nuclear-weapons threat.”

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

A North Korean diplomat condemned the latest joint exercises as “massive” and “unprecedented in size,” saying, “It will certainly jeopardize peace and stability in the region and drive the situation in the Korean peninsula to the brink of nuclear war.”

His rhetoric had more than a little factual basis. South Korea’s defense minister confirmed that the exercises are similar in scale to those held last year. With more than 300,000 South Korea and 17,000 American troops, 2016’s war games were the largest in the region’s history.

Although officials in Washington and Seoul invariably characterize the maneuvers and simulations as “defensive” and “non-provocative,” last year’s exercises reportedly included “rehearsals of surgical strikes on North Korea’s main nuclear and missile facilities and ‘decapitation raids’ by special forces targeting the North’s leadership.”

Taking part in the exercises was a naval strike group led by the nuclear-powered supercarrier USS John C. Stennis, along with the nuclear-powered attack submarine USS North Carolina, stealth F-22 fighter aircraft, nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers, and Marine special forces who practiced amphibious landings.

Those forces represent exactly the capabilities that informed military analysts say would be used if Washington decided to unleash a preemptive, surprise “surgical strike” against North Korea’s nuclear forces and command and control centers.

Dangerous Precedents

Viewing that array of forces in the light of past “U.S. attacks on Libya and Iraq and Serbia,” leaders in Pyongyang last year understandably saw “the potential for a U.S. attack,” remarked Bruce Klinger, a Korea analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation, at the time.

“They know the history of the Marine Corps,” he added, “so they would see a large presence of Marines on the peninsula as possibly a prelude to an attack or an invasion — especially when it’s coupled with the presence of B-52s and nuke-capable submarines.”

On both sides of the 39th parallel, opponents are operating by the same familiar logic — summed up by one Marine Corps general as “peace through strength.” Ignoring military threats is certainly not an option. But responding to them only with military force leads to a dangerously illogical cycle of escalation, bluffs, threats, and counter-escalation.

We should take seriously the warning of North Korea’s ambassador to the U.N. that “the situation on the Korean Peninsula is again inching to the brink of a nuclear war.” That risk makes it more imperative than ever that Washington and its allies stop threatening “regime change” and start exploring negotiations, and even a meeting of leaders, to end the state of war between the two Koreas that has lasted ever since the armistice in 1953.

Before it’s too late, indeed, someone should remind President Trump of his professed willingness to talk to Kim Jong Un over a hamburger in the cause of peace. “I’ll speak to anybody,” he told a campaign rally last June. “Who knows? There’s a 10 percent or a 20 percent chance that I can talk him out of those damn nukes because who the hell wants him to have nukes?”

Jonathan Marshall previously authored “Behind the North Korean Nuke Crisis” and “The Negotiation Option With North Korea.”

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34 comments for “North Korea Fears ‘Regime Change’ Strike

  1. Zachary Smith
    March 8, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    North Korea Fears ‘Regime Change’ Strike

    If nukes go off on the Korean peninsula, it’ll be on account of an attack on the North unless the North goes completely suicidal. The only reason I can imagine for NK getting nuclear weapons in the first place was to prevent an attack.

    Korea experts had in fact long predicted that the North would — as it does every year — undertake “military provocations” to protest the start of the latest annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises on March 1.

    One of the ways Egypt lulled Israel into complacency in 1973 was the fact their military buildup exercises had been going on for years. A government as paranoid as NK isn’t likely to make the same mistake.

    Before it’s too late, indeed, someone should remind President Trump of his professed willingness to talk to Kim Jong Un over a hamburger in the cause of peace.

    That was then, and the current situation is now. The Deep State has been engaged in a massive project of neutering Trump and reducing his freedom of action with the BS Russian Agent stuff. He may not be able to do anything sensible regarding North Korea, even if he still wants to do so.

    • D5-5
      March 8, 2017 at 1:32 pm

      Paranoid, Zachary? This is the mindset justifying American and South Korean forces raving up and down North Korean borders year after year. The relevant word is pretext. We could and should move toward at least non-violent peaceful relations between North and South, if not re-unification, and get the 30 thousand or so American troops out of there. North Korea is a small country of 25 million or so with a large 1 million sized but outdated military. Year after year after year it has tried to bring on negotiations toward resolution of all the war behavior it experiences from the annual exercises and the militarism. North Korea is a convenient unending demonized scapegoat salivated over endlessly, but its behavior is defensive, not offensive. During the time South Korea had Kim Dae Jung as president nearly 20 years ago some progress was made, a tiny percolation of hope happened, which has since been undone to get back to the aggressive US stance and “axis of evil” thinking. Trump has fallen right into this mindset.

  2. Stiv
    March 8, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    Trump is uniquely unqualified and unprepared for the difficult road ahead. As a matter of fact, the only thing he’s qualified for is making things worse.

    Good job, shithead Amerikka!

    • Zachary Smith
      March 8, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      Yes, we’d be SO much better off with Queen Hillary at the helm of the Ship of State.

      Sober. Honest. Moderate in all things.

      Dream world stuff, that.

    • Sam F
      March 8, 2017 at 9:35 pm

      But it is not helpful to personify a nation; we do that when we are too angry. Remember, even a pile of sewage has many perfectly good atoms; it is the organization that stinks. What we seek is the bacteria that can break it down to make of this very rich fertilizer a better soil for.a new tree of democracy.

    • David
      March 10, 2017 at 2:57 pm

      Well, 64 years of “qualified and prepared” people have failed to bring an end to the conflict. Perhaps a new approach is warranted?

  3. mike k
    March 8, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    The Warlords of Washington have been itching for a nuclear victim target for years. In the present atmosphere of heated paranoid propaganda, they are seeing their chance. Trump”s feeble feints in the direction of peace and conciliation are translated as death threats to the Lords of America Uber Alles. They probably feel this is their last best chance to take the world where they want it to go – that is to bow down to the exceptional nation willing to risk annihilation in order to gain total world dominance.

  4. Jonathan Marshall
    March 8, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    Since I wrote this article, China has constructively called for a “dual suspension” of North Korean missile tests and US-South Korean military exercises, warning that the two sides are like “accelerating trains coming toward each other.”

    • mike k
      March 8, 2017 at 1:56 pm

      Do either of these trains really have brakes? Looks like w are going to find out….

    • evelync
      March 8, 2017 at 3:33 pm

      China seems like the grown up in the room……….

      Andrew Bacevich said in his Boston University talk at the Pardee School (during the Q&A, I think) that we’ve been moving towards a multipolar world with 4 super powers – China, India, Europe and the U.S. (he sees Russia as part of a lower tier).
      If China succeeds in calming this down, they will have gained some cred as a peacemaker, IMO.

      Perhaps they should announce that they’ve decided to sell all their US Treasury holdings to try to get the attention of Washington’s wiser/cooler heads if there are any who have the courage to speak up en masse…

      It’s pitiful that 350 million people have absolutely no say in our foreign policy. Just a few Neocons and their Neoliberal sidekicks seemingly playing with fire and to what end?

    • Sam F
      March 8, 2017 at 9:16 pm

      China’s position has been the reasonable path for many years. You noted that ” But responding to [military threats] only with military force leads to a dangerously illogical cycle of escalation…” And indeed “he hit me first” is the infantile excuse of warmongers who need to create foreign threats to demand domestic (and foreign) power as false protectors, and accuse their moral superiors of disloyalty, as Aristotle warned of the tyrants over democracy. The US warmongers have long created provocations very deliberately, then silenced the mass media on this, having them report the reactions as unprovoked aggression, the infantile strategy of the bully boy and nothing more.

      Either Trump hasn’t the foggiest inkling of government or history, or he is playing the warmonger game to assuage factions so as to disable them, but the latter hypothesis likely fails because he has appointed warmongers. Even Obama had far more courage in opposing the National Security Council, but they didn’t bother to meet his demands for evidence that more force in Iraq and Afghanistan would accomplish something, and he apparently went along anyway. I would have threatened to dump the entire NSC, and then downsized and reorganized it.

    • rosemerry
      March 9, 2017 at 5:06 pm

      Excellent news, but the USA always seem unable to see any point of view that is not its own. Look at the situation of NATO/Russia, with the USA pretending it cannot understand why Russia would object to being encircled. All through the Cold War the USA claimed to be terrified of Soviet intentions, while constantly increasing its nuclear weapons, and this has gone on ever since. Actual talks, with genuine listening and trying to understand North Korea’s fears, instead of cancelling visas when talks were to occur in recent weeks, are needed, not provocative and unnecessary wargames with South Korea.

  5. mike k
    March 8, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    The paranoid military mind thinks like this: “Unless I strike first, my enemy will destroy me first.” This is really dangerous thinking in a Mexican standoff. The danger in escalating threats is that one side or the other will become unable to bear the tension, and make a terrible irretrievable mistake!

  6. March 8, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    US military Budget yields Chaos : Over 90% of world terrorism is located near US military concentrations. During the time of US military occupation, Afghanistan became #1 world Heroin producer.

    http://zerowastenews.org

  7. John C.
    March 8, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    The annual exercises have been occurring for many years before kju, and every year SK and the USA have not attacked NK.
    Who “walked away” from the 6 party talks?
    Who keeps firing missiles?
    Who’s people need food?
    What nuclear war? The potential for an invasion of NK is a done deal if NK attacks. So don’t attack.
    Want to reduce the tentions, let’s talk, the invitation is out there.

    • rosemerry
      March 9, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      As always, divert the blame away from the “exceptional country” which loves peace, harmony and understanding.

  8. March 8, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    This site is fake news and opinions not fact

    • D5-5
      March 8, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      This is an ignorant comment not familiar with this site.

      • Sam F
        March 8, 2017 at 9:23 pm

        Good response, worth a chuckle.

    • March 9, 2017 at 2:38 am

      You got it dude. Heritage Foundation is a dead giveaway.

      • David
        March 10, 2017 at 3:04 pm

        Good for you. I expect that John and Hal wont waste any more of my time posting inane comments here any longer. Cya guys!

    • rosemerry
      March 9, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      Nobody asked you to read it (if you did) or to comment for no purpose.

  9. March 8, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Show me the facts, all I see is opinion and conjecture.

    • Zachary Smith
      March 8, 2017 at 5:49 pm

      I’d suggest an opthamologist, especially after I counted at least a dozen links in the essay. Failure to see these could mean you need a change of eyeglasses, or possibly even cataracts could be the issue.

      Oh, and one other thing, is your personal internet connection so bad that you can’t provide some “facts” of your own? With links/journal/book sources, of course.

      • Sam F
        March 8, 2017 at 9:24 pm

        Good suggestions.

  10. Bill Bodden
    March 8, 2017 at 9:13 pm

    Ignoring military threats is certainly not an option. But responding to them only with military force leads to a dangerously illogical cycle of escalation, bluffs, threats, and counter-escalation.

    This statement makes perfect sense, but given the plethora of warmongers in influential positions in Washington sense is not likely to prevail.

  11. Hal Hunter
    March 9, 2017 at 2:35 am

    So why is a think tank of hyperbole journalism like HERITAGE FOUNDATION, an Israeli neocon Zionist full of shit institute pushing the US and North Korea towards a war. North Korea, Kin Un, the people of North Korea and the USA do not want a war. Only Neocons in the US and Israel want to see this happen. America should ban Heritage Foundation ( connected to Federal Reserve) and kick them out of America for being shit starters. We know who is behind it all.

    • Sam F
      March 9, 2017 at 11:44 am

      Please explain your information on Heritage Foundation, any connection to this site, and the apparent contradiction between your comment above, apparently attacking this website, and this comment. Thanks.

    • David
      March 10, 2017 at 3:08 pm

      “Viewing that array of forces in the light of past “U.S. attacks on Libya and Iraq and Serbia,” leaders in Pyongyang last year understandably saw “the potential for a U.S. attack,” remarked Bruce Klinger, a Korea analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation, at the time.

      “They know the history of the Marine Corps,” he added, “so they would see a large presence of Marines on the peninsula as possibly a prelude to an attack or an invasion — especially when it’s coupled with the presence of B-52s and nuke-capable submarines.””

      How exactly is that a statement “pushing the US and NK towards war”. Your reading comprehension could use some work.

  12. Ian Perkins
    March 9, 2017 at 2:49 am

    The article mentions the war games in South Korea, but what about this? Surely a missile test by a country you’re at war with is some reason for your own missile tests, as well as a fair degree of paranoia.
    “U.S. test-fires ICBMs to stress its power to Russia, North Korea”
    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-defense-nuclear-idUSKCN0VZ02R

  13. Purity Of Essence
    March 11, 2017 at 12:49 am

    Fuck off yanks! Go take your ill-informed belligerent world view and shove your nukes where the sun don’t shine.
    Kissinger, Cheney and Obama and the rest should be tried for war crimes.
    Having fucked up your own country with cowboy and Indian myths you cant escape you impose them on the rest of the world.
    Here’s the Real News – the rest of the world has had enough of your bullshit.

Comments are closed.