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TRUMP'S RISKY GAMBLE WITH THE NORTH

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Nuclear weapons are primarily defensive in nature and represent the ultimate insurance against foreign invasion. This must be the backdrop for the future of Trump-Kim meeting for which the expectations seem to have been hastily heightened and not the much-exaggerated “historic” meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas. No less “historic” meetings were already held twice before––in 2000 and 2007––and the 1992 Joint Declaration for the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula literally stated that “The South and the North shall not test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons.”
We are at the very beginning, not at the end, of a long road that may lead to nuclear-free peace with North Korea, but quite realistically may not. Even worse, with the exaggerated expectations now, the Trump Administration has actually increased the risk of a large-scale conflict.

North Korean Endgame: Is The Regime Rational or Not?

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2016 was the year of the most missile tests conducted ever by North Korea, a total of 24. Since the beginning of 2017, the regime in Pyongyang had ratcheted up the tests, currently at 17, with the promise to reach a new all-time high, and surpass the last year’s record. The last test, conducted symbolically on the 4th of July, marked a new milestone by introducing an intercontinental capability to the Pyongyang’s ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with a range that could reach Alaska and potentially Seattle. It is now believed that North Korea will soon be able to develop and mount miniaturized nuclear warheads to its ICBMs and become an even greater threat to its neighbors, and the United States. The urgency of the current developments, fast outpacing the expected timetable for acquiring such capabilities, has raised the stakes at Washington, Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow, and Beijing, prompting for fast new policies targeting the military belligerence of the rogue state. What are the main policy op…

Japan’s Nuclear Moment

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If Japan wanted to develop nuclear weapons, there would be no better moment than now to start. As the North Korean regime grows desperate to get a more generous ransom against its nuclear program, its threats to Tokyo grew multifold. Last week Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, warned that North Korea is preparing to launch missiles with sarin against Tokyo. The U.S. President, Donald Trump, further added to the turmoil by declaring last week that an “armada” of American military vessels is heading to the Korean peninsula, only to be contradicted by his own military, which broke the news that days later the “armada” was sailing nearby Singapore, over 3,000 miles away from the Korean peninsula, and reportedly has been travelling in the opposite direction. So much for the credibility of the American “extended deterrence”, which should guarantee the security umbrella over Japan, a policy in force since 1975. Now, both South Korea and Japan feel cheated and let down, while the U.S. …

Political Economy of Trump’s Predictably Unpredictable Foreign Policy

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In one of the most memorable scenes in Black Mass, Johny Depp portraying the notorious South Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, demonstrates the extent of his personal and unpredictable power and control when in the middle of the dinner, he playfully and innocently asks his associate John Morris for the recipe of the steak he was just served. He then makes Morris and the rest of the company squirm in front of him in fear, until relaxing again and laughing out the tense atmosphere, but not without hinting that this might or might not be the last dramatic switch off his take on the situation. No one knows what he thinks, no one can predict what would be his next act. The fear that comes from the unpredictable behavior enhances his personal power. Not surprisingly, unpredictability is a frequent trait for characters in many fiction works, portraying how a leader establishes control in a zero-gravity environment. In an unstructured, anarchic environment, unpredictability keeps both foe…

Why North Korea's Nuclear Bullishness Is Good News for US Foreign Policy

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North Korea tested a nuclear device this past Memorial Day weekend in attempt to call the US bluff. The Great Powers rushed to condemn the test, which was expected, and the UN's Security Council is expected to deliver a strong resolution against N. Korea. South Korea, frightened and frustrated, agreed to back the US plan to search N. Korea's boats for weapons. Pyongyang has warned that such a move would be considered an open declaration of war. Now South Korea must call the North's bluff.  But the real victims of the Dear Leader's power game will be Russia and China, along with his tacit supporters. Conversely, he US actually stands to benefit from this escalation. Here is why.

Before looking at the implications of this new situation, and the possible ways to respond, we must address: a) why the escalation happened and b) why it happened now. There are at least two possible scenarios as to why Pyongyang tested the nuclear devices, and launched the missiles. The first…