Robert Burns and Matthew Pennington of the Associated Press tell us:
"U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is visiting the Korean Peninsula at a momentous juncture in the faltering effort to persuade Pyongyang to halt and dismantle its nuclear weapons program. Ominous questions hang in the air."
Why momentous? North Korea has in the past been successfully so persuaded. And it's subsequently been antagonized and threatened until it recommenced. This has gone on for decades, while it's been 64 years since a peace treaty should have been signed that never has been. It's been 14 years since North Korea resumed building nukes. It's been ten grueling months of Trump's regime during which nasty comments and threats have been passed back and forth across the Pacific schoolyard. What makes this moment momentous? Stay tuned. AP will explain.
"Is diplomacy failing? Is war approaching?"
Is the wind blowing? Are you kidding? Are diplomacy and war external forces that impose themselves on humanity? North Korea has been very clear and reasonable in its demands, even while screaming its threats and defiance. If the United States will stop moving missiles and planes and ships close to a country it once destroyed, and stop threatening to destroy it again, North Korea will discuss doing what Iraq and Libya did before they were attacked: disarming. The question is not "Is war approaching?" "Ominously!" The question is: will Trump and his subordinates continue to refuse to negotiate? Will they insist on war?
"Mattis' second trip as Pentagon boss to Seoul will take place Friday, following his consultations with Asian partners on a unified approach to resolve the North Korea crisis. In the Philippines, his Japanese counterpart spoke darkly of an 'unprecedented, critical and imminent' threat posed by the North's repeated demonstrations of its ability to launch an intercontinental-range missile, potentially armed with a nuclear warhead."
Did this person really speak darkly? What did it sound like? Were they using the dictionary definition of "imminent," and if so on what basis? Or were they using the White House Office of Legal Counsel definition of "imminent," meaning "theoretically could occur within the millennium"? Can't the United States launch nuclear ICBMs? Can't Russia? China? What is unprecedented?
"Twice, in August and September, North Korean missiles overflew Japan's northern Hokkaido island, triggering alarms and warnings for citizens to take cover. As North Korea's capabilities rush toward putting the U.S. mainland in range, Mattis has stuck to the American diplomacy and pressure campaign led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The goal is to compel the North to a complete and irreversible removal of its nuclear arsenal."
So, the Associated Press can see the future? And it sees there, very soon, North Korean nuclear missiles that can hit the United States? And the path away from this is "diplomacy and pressure" -- a phrase that suggests a lack of comprehension of what diplomacy is? It is not "Hello, sir, I'm here to respectfully discuss how we can work things out, and I'm constantly kicking you in the ass purely because that's how I respectfully warn people what's coming if they don't comply. Now, what do you believe needs to be done? Kindly bend over a bit. There we go." Has the AP heard that Tillerson's efforts in this regard were further sabotaged, as if they needed it, by Captain Twitter Master, whom Tillerson reportedly called a moron, while the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the president believed he was living inside a television show, but the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee pitched in by proposing to exterminate North Koreans, whom the President merely wants to "totally destroy"?
"'Everyone is out for a peaceful resolution. No one's rushing for war,' Mattis told reporters Wednesday on a flight to Thailand. From there, he is traveling on to South Korea. But there are increasing suggestions of possible military confrontation. Trump's national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, said last week, 'We are in a race to resolve this short of military action,' adding, 'We are running out of time.'"
There it is. That's why this moment is momentous. The U.S. military has set a deadline for war, and if they don't launch a war by then, well, well . . . well, then there won't be a war yet, that's what! Imagine if the U.S. had waited for the Taliban to turn bin Laden over to be put on trial, or given the inspectors a few more days in Iraq, or allowed a peace settlement with Gadaffi -- where would we all be then, I ask you? Suburban Washington, D.C., wouldn't be crawling with the luxury automobiles of newly wealthy weapons dealers, that's what. Momentous.
"Michael Swaine, a longtime Asia specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that while he is hopeful of averting conflict, 'I don't see any clear signs that there is progress in either coercing the North Koreans into starting to talk about denuclearization or finding some other path toward some kind of engagement with North Korea.'"
The emphasis is on the Endowment, not the Peace. A nation that is arming in response to threats and coercion doesn't disarm in response to more coercion. Would the United States?
"'Recent months have shown a worsening of the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea that is very troubling to me,' he said in an interview. 'I'm concerned about the president's upcoming trip to Asia where the North Koreans could use this as an opportunity to conduct some additional test.' President Donald Trump will visit South Korea next month. Aides say he will not travel to the Demilitarized Zone, the internationally recognized buffer zone that has separated the two Koreas since the Korean War. The fighting ended in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty, meaning the United States and North Korea are still technically at war. Trump has mocked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as 'Little Rocket Man' and threatened to unleash 'fire and fury' on Pyongyang if its leaders do not abandon their nuclear weapons."
Thanks for acknowledging that. How does it fit with the storyline of the noble but futile pursuit of coerced diplomacy racing against the clock? Couldn't the clock be turned back by Trump tweeting one nice thing or being impeached, or Congress forbidding war, or the South Korean government living up to its promise and booting the U.S. military out? That is, doesn't the clock have numerous buttons and dials that can be manipulated? It's not a magical clock, is it?
"Kim seems undaunted by threats and unresponsive to diplomatic overtures. He has traded insults with Trump and kept his country marching -- some say speeding -- toward a capability to strike any American city with a nuclear weapon."