Trump’s Mixed Signals on North Korea

The Trump administration is sending mixed signals about what it might do in North Korea, from suggestions of a first-strike military attack to talks aimed at reining in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

On Aug. 1, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. is not pushing for regime change in North Korea, but some White House insiders say President Trump is considering going to war. Meanwhile, North Korea claims to have made progress on delivering a potential nuclear strike on the West Coast and beyond.

A map of the Korean Peninsula showing the 38th Parallel where the DMZ was established in 1953. (Wikipedia)

Tillerson, while saying the Pentagon has updated military options, admitted that a confrontation with North Korea could be catastrophic and suggested that there was still time for negotiations backed by economic pressure.

“We do not seek a regime change, we do not seek the collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th parallel,” said Tillerson, referring to the border between North and South Korea.

“We’re not your enemy, we’re not your threat but you’re presenting an unacceptable threat to us and we have to respond.”

I spoke to Flashpoint’s Special Correspondent for the Koreas, Kay Jay Noh, about the volatile situation that could become a full blown confrontation at any time. Noh, who was recently in China and Korea, is a longtime political activist, writer and teacher. I spoke to him in Berkeley, California, on July 31.

Dennis Bernstein: U.S. pundits and certain Trump administration officials are talking about a “first strike,” a “limited strike.” We are flying bombers over the peninsula. What is your understanding of the situation on the ground in both countries?

Kay Jay Noh: I was in Korea and China recently and the situation on the ground is very different in the two countries. In Korea, people are going about their lives as if things were perfectly normal. In China, there is an escalation to war. It is rather covert but those preparations are becoming…

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