Wednesday, April 12, 2017


A pre-emptive strike by Trump or Jong-un could turn the Korean Peninsula into a 'sea of flames'

By Mark Seddon

Daily Mail
April 11, 2017

What may be about to unfold on the Korean Peninsula could be far, far more serious and destructive than the continuing charnel house that is Syria’s brutal conflict.

Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the world may stand on the very precipice of a Third World War.

The US has deployed an immensely powerful naval strike group to the seas around the Korean Peninsula. China has reportedly rushed 150,000 troops to the North Korean border.

But what makes all this truly terrifying is the unpredictable and compulsive nature of the two main players involved – President Donald Trump and the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

The North Korean leader has already warned it has US bases ‘in its nuclear sights’. Meanwhile Trump has poured petrol on the fire by declaring – by Twitter, astonishingly – that ‘North Korea is looking for trouble’ and that if China ‘does not decide to help’, the US ‘will solve the problem without them’.

As one of the few Western journalists to have reported from deep inside North Korea on several occasions and to have met senior party officials and military leaders, I can say with certainty that any military action against North Korea would immediately engulf its near neighbours China, Japan and South Korea. But it could also see Britain dragged in.

I have been told that the Trump administration has now all but completed a review led by the National Security Council into all the options for dealing with a nuclear-armed, deeply hostile North Korea.

Part of that review involves pulling together a ‘Coalition of the Willing’ – and as one of the 17 members of the so-called United Nations Command on the Korean Peninsula (which dates back to the Korean War of the 1950s), the UK will be one of the first to be called. Coincidentally, in November last year, British special forces, including a squadron of RAF Typhoon aircraft took part in ‘Operation Vambrace Warrior’, the largest military exercise of its type since 2003, alongside their American and Japanese counterparts.

They launched a mock seaborne assault to capture a moribund nuclear power station in North Wales – a dry run some believe for the capture of North Korea’s major nuclear facility at Yongbyon. But Britain should beware before rushing to do Trump’s bidding.

The Korean War – which saw more bombs dropped on the North of the country than were dropped on the whole of Germany in the Second World War – would look like a tea party in comparison with what could happen today.

The appalling carnage that would arise from either side – the US or North Korea - opting for a ‘pre-emptive strike’ would see parts of the Peninsula turned into what Kim Jong-un’s late father, the diminutive, platform-heeled wearing Kim Jong-il described as ‘a sea of flames’.

Kim Jong-un is fearless and paranoid in equal measure. He reportedly had an uncle – who he saw as a potential rival – blown to pieces on an artillery range. More recently he had another rival – a half-brother – Kim Jong-nam poisoned and killed at Kuala Lumpur airport. Consciously modelling himself on his grandfather, the late Kim Il-sung, who was genuinely popular having commanded the forces that drove the Japanese from Korea in 1945, Kim Jong-un sees himself as a demi-god. Since this is how his people, hermetically-sealed from the rest of the world, also see him, perhaps he cannot be blamed for having such a high opinion of himself.

Meanwhile, his millions of isolated North Koreans – whose adulation for their leaders Westerners find amusing – are deadly serious about fighting to the last ditch for them.

Kim Jong-un effectively presides over a fearless ‘death cult’. He commands the fourth largest standing army in the world, whose conscripts with their Soviet-era weaponry cannot disguise their utter fanaticism.

During one trip to the country I saw trainloads of heavy artillery heading for the border with the south and hillsides honeycombed with entrances to tunnels containing swarms of fanatical soldiers.

And never forget that the weird cult that has continued to run North Korea since the end of the Korean War – when Soviet-backed North Korean troops invaded the South and were pushed back with brutal force by the US – has spent every day since preparing for war against the ‘evil Americans’. There may have been an armistice signed, but there has never been a final peace agreement. North Korea is not only armed to the teeth, it has the capability to destroy South Korea’s capital of Seoul just 40 miles away, in minutes, in cannon fire.

If the US launched any pre-emptive strike, Seoul’s ten million inhabitants could be obliterated by Kim Jong-un.

The trouble is that the North Korean leader believes that having a nuclear arsenal is an insurance policy against the sort of strike that America has just unleashed against Syria.

And he now has intermediate-range missiles that some experts believe may have been weaponised with a viable design – as well as the nuclear material to arm between 30 and 85 missiles according to various estimates.

Although North Korea may still lack the sophisticated guidance technologies for precision targeting, the US will not allow any possibility of them ever being launched towards the west coast of America.

Nor do Donald Trump and his generals want to be presented with a fait accompli, with the North suddenly announcing a new willingness to talk having just become a de-facto nuclear state.

Which means Kim Jong-un may be mistaken in his belief that weaponising his missiles will deter the Americans from a ‘preventive strike’.

Perhaps the American President believes that he can persuade the neighbouring Chinese to finally turn the screw completely on Kim Jong-un, and block all the energy exports that keep the deeply impoverished country functioning.

Or perhaps Trump is confident that in extremis China’s President Xi may yet send his troops across the border to ‘save the Korean revolution’ and depose the pudgy North Korean dictator for one of their own choice.

The last thing Xi wants is millions of refugees coming over the border as a result of an American attack. But Xi will be in no doubt, however much he denies it, that Kim Jong-un’s fanatical army will fight ‘invaders’ wherever they come from – even China.

Glyn Ford, a former British EU politician who has recently returned from Pyongyang, believes that the only way of averting full blown crisis is for the United Nations Security Council to initiate urgent talks aimed at defusing the rush to war.

This is something with the former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon – who is himself from South Korea and for whom I worked in recent years as a speech writer and advisor – would agree.

The frightening truth is that unless someone brokers a peace in this escalating war of words, that promised ‘sea of flames’ really could flare up – and engulf the world.

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