Connect with us


From Trump to Biden: A changed approach towards North Korea

Avatar photo



George Wald once stated, “Nuclear weapons don’t offer us anything but a balance of terror, and a balance of terror is still a terror”. This is something evident in the current geopolitics with some states having possessed these weapons are threatening the world with their use, while others are in a struggle to get one. As long as nuclear weapons exist, the world will remain in a state of continuous fear since there are likely chances of these nuclear weapons being used one day by accident, miscalculation, or design, and such use would certainly be catastrophic. It’s sheer luck that the world has absconded such a cataclysm until now.

Looking into the case of North Korea, it has always been central to US Foreign Policy. Not only because of its key geostrategic position but also because of the Nuclear Proliferation it has been doing. Under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, North Korea is incessantly threatening the world with its repeated nuclear testing. Therefore, the US administration has always put the nuclear proliferation of North Korea on top of its policy agenda. Starting with the former president of the US, Donald Trump, his approach towards North Korea has been hallmarked by a blend of engagement and aggression.

Trump has long been criticizing Obama’s approach of “strategic patience” towards North Korea that was based on waiting for the regime to collapse under increased sanctions to achieve complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. In his presidential campaign 2020, Trump accused Obama of leaving him in a difficult position vis-a-vis North Korea. However, analyzing deeply Trump administration despite being more open towards “summit diplomacy” with North Korea, and having arranged three of them in Singapore, Hanoi, and Vienna, failed to bring any significant change. Although, Kim Jong Un himself became the first from his country to have met a sitting US president, and actively partake in summits, yet the two sides failed to bring peace and stability to the region. Interestingly, not even Trump’s aggressive move upon North Korea’s sixth nuclear test in 2017 when he called Kim to meet with “Fire and Fury”, and the threat to attack militarily if it endangered the US, brought any denuclearization of the state.  Instead, North Korea has only advanced its capabilities, tested new missiles with the recent one on 10th October 2020.

Neither is the “Grand Bargain policy” of Trump that was based on security assistance and economic integration if North Korea ensures denuclearization leads to any improvement. Thus, the fierce exchange, military threats coupled with the summit diplomacy didn’t produce lashing outputs. Hopes are now attached with the newly elected President, Joe Biden who has recently announced the completion of the North Korean policy review which the White House through its public statements gave an idea of. Though it is still subject to multiple interpretations, yet an informed guess can be made.

President Joe Biden in a congress session upon completion of his hundred days in office stated that his policies towards North Korea will have a mix of diplomacy and stern deterrence. Thereafter, a statement was made by White House secretary, Jen Psaki who referred to Biden’s “Calibrated Practical approach” as laying between the Strategic Patience and Grand Bargain policies of the former administration. This indicates that the Biden administration is deeming for more engagement with Kim-Jong-Un. Though Trump too has participated in summits with North Korea, yet Biden seems to have more direct talks for negotiation to carve a way out for denuclearization.

Importantly, Biden’s practical approach differs from Trump’s “Fire and Fury” as it suggests multiple responses to Pyongyang’s actions. It could mean US support if North Korea does denuclearization, and improve its human right records. Otherwise, the nuclear testing is to be met with severe sanctions, and US stringent actions to downplay any such threat. Secretary of the state, Antony Blinken clearly stated that “The US will look up to not what North Korea says but what it does too”. This means actions for actions, and any mistaken move would come in the way for North Korea.

The second and most important aspect is Biden’s call for the denuclearization of the entire Korean Peninsula. Hosting South Korean President Moon Jae at the White House on May 21, he told the media that the US and South Korea are willing to engage diplomatically with North Korea as our ultimate goal is denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. This is something different from the previous administration’s call for the denuclearization of North Korea only. Thus, analysts believe this statement could hint towards weakening US-South Korea relations, and an indicator of US intentions to remove its troops from the capital of South Korea, Seoul, something which would definitely serve the interest of North Korea. However, a deep analysis reveals otherwise. This is because a call for denuclearization of the entire Korean Peninsula means North Korea will denuclearize only if South Korea does so, and if we see at the moment South Korea has no nuclear weapons.

What it has instead is the US security Umbrella with around 28,500 US troops stationed there. And considering the interests of the US vis-à-vis the Indo-Pacific region, it will never leave a vacuum for any competitor in the region by removing its troops from South Korea. Therefore, it’s important to comprehend the nuclearization phrasing, as calling for the entire peninsula denuclearization might only be intended to make Kim happy and to bring him back to the negotiation table. Moreover, secretary of the state, Antony Blinken has also stated, “It’s up to North Korea if it wants to engage or not on that basis”. Though it apparently shows the good side of the US trying to have flexibility in its approach, yet the reality is the opposite of what it seems to be.

Here leaving an option means giving a clear-cut message to North Korea for the consequences of failing to cooperate. Nevertheless, Kim responds by stating that the US will face a severe crisis if it will follow such an approach. Referring to the US policies as hostile, he regarded it as a complete blunder and call upon the US to remove sanctions on its military program. Thus, intense competition is still underway, and more will be unveiled with each passing day. Till then, there will be multiple interpretations of his policies. However, one thing is for sure that Biden will have an open door step-by-step policy towards North Korea only if it shows compliance and commitment as necessitated.

My name is Ayesha Zafar and I am pursuing my Bachelors in International Relations from National Defence University, Islamabad. I have authored multiple academic publications including research articles and book chapters. My areas of interest include Middle Eastern politics, the geopolitics of Central Asia, and Indo-Pacific region.

Continue Reading


U.S. has a vital interest in avoiding going to war for a lie

Avatar photo



Photo: Bundesregierung/Denzel

Last time, it was a U.S. president, George W. Bush, who dishonestly took America into a conflict, but that at least was against a weak Third World nation. The consequences were still disastrous: thousands dead and tens of thousands of wounded Americans and hundreds of thousands dead Iraqi civilians, trillions of dollars wasted, and a Middle East in flames.

But what Zelensky would do is much more serious, writes “The American Conservative”. He called the Poland strike “a really significant escalation” requiring a response, even though the issue would have nothing to do with Ukraine had the missile been launched by Russia.

In this case, entry into the war could trigger a major conventional conflict highlighted by use of tactical nuclear weapons, or even the use of strategic nuclear strikes around the globe, from Russia to Europe to the U.S. That would be a catastrophic result for all concerned, including Ukraine.

But the missile was not from Russia, and the U.S. has a vital interest in avoiding going to war for a lie. Upbraiding Zelensky, as Biden apparently did, isn’t enough.

This isn’t the first unsettling surprise by Ukraine for Washington. While the attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge was legitimate, it could escalate the conflict in dangerous ways for the U.S. So too could strikes in border Russian regions near Belgorod, and the assassination of Daria Dugina, a Russian propagandist, not combatant.

If Ukraine were operating entirely on its own, such actions would be its business. However, it has succeeded beyond any expectation only because of allied, and especially U.S., support for the Ukrainian military.

Washington also should further open diplomatic channels with Moscow, as appears to be happening, at least to some degree, given reports of CIA Director Bill Burns meeting with his Russian counterpart last week. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin have also engaged with Russia, but such conversations need to be broadened to discuss possible political accommodations.

The U.S. also needs to address the Europeans, especially its most fervent hawks, who tend to be among the most lightly armed.

For instance, the Baltic states — small nations with minimal armed forces and niggardly defense efforts for governments claiming to be under imminent threat of conquest — are regarded as the most likely to engage in “freelancing,” as when Lithuania sought to block traffic between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia. Everyone knew who would be ultimately stuck fighting the war that might result if Moscow’s forces had decided to shoot their way through, and it wasn’t Vilnius.

It is easy to sacrifice someone else’s lives and money, which is essentially what most U.S. “allies” believe is their role in both bilateral and multilateral security partnerships. Washington submissively agrees to defend them, as is its duty; they generously agree to be defended, as is their right. That relationship is no longer sustainable.

America’s foreign aid should be tailored to American interests, and Washington should rethink what has become an increasingly dangerous almost “all-in” proxy war against Russia.

The U.S. should scale back military aid to Kiev, and especially Europe.

Operating as Europe’s patsy is a serious problem, even in peace.

The time for the Europeans to take their defense seriously is long overdue. But that will happen only when Washington stops doing everything for them. America’s military remain busy around the world. The Europeans should secure their own continent, relieving the U.S. of at least one needless military responsibility.

Zelensky’s misleading missile gambit reinforces the necessity of a change in course for Washington.

International Affairs

Continue Reading


Thanksgiving, The World Cup and Sports Celebrities

Avatar photo



Forty-six million turkeys surrender their lives so Americans can celebrate Thanksgiving.  It is an occasion where traditionally families gather together for a scrumptious meal of turkey and trimmings, numerous side dishes and pumpkin pie, followed by … college football on TV — that is American football, a game somewhat similar to rugby. 

The holiday is meant to commemorate the first Thanksgiving when the pilgrims who ventured to America gave thanks for a good harvest.  It was a time when a poor harvest could have meant famine in winter.  Never now in our sophisticated world where we import grapes from the southern hemisphere (Chile) for consumption in winter and many fruits are available year round.

This year there is the added entertainment of the soccer World Cup in Qatar, being played out in eight  purpose-built stadiums, seven new and one refurbished.  Most will be converted for other uses after the event, a change from the past.  

The US now has a team that held England, where the game was invented, to a draw.  The favorites remain  the Latin American powerhouses like Brazil and Argentina but the Europeans can on occasion pull off a surprise.

Why certain games are popular in one country and not another is difficult to explain.  India and China, the world’s most populous countries, are absent at the World Cup.  On the other hand, India is a powerhouse in another British game: cricket.  And China remains a top performer at the Olympics.

The crowd turning out for cricket matches, particularly between arch rivals India and Pakistan remain unmatched by other sports played there, even field hockey where the two countries have also been fairly successful. 

Leveraging sports celebrity into a political career is also possible but success on the cricket pitch may not always be transferred to administrative competence.  Imran Khan’s innings as prime minister led to members of his own party defecting, and ended when he lost his parliamentary majority.

Still attracting large crowds of supporters who are entertained at his rallies before he himself appears, he is asking his supporters to march to the capital — echoes of another leader this time in the US, Donald Trump, who has just announced a bid for re-election.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan has been secretly recorded planning illegal tactics and barred from holding political office by the courts in Pakistan.  Exactly how he plans to rule if his party or coalition were to win is not clear — by proxy perhaps.

If all this is not enough, he has become notorious for doing U-turns on policy leaving his party members and supporters scrambling in his wake — a reminder if ever there was of the old Chinese curse:  “May you live in interesting times.”

Continue Reading


Ron Paul: Biden Administration accept that it has a “Zelensky problem”

Avatar photo



Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Last week the world stood on the very edge of a nuclear war, as Ukraine’s US-funded president, Vladimir Zelensky, urged NATO military action over a missile that landed on Polish soil.”

This is a comment from the prominent American political leader Ronald Ernest Paul was for many years the member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas. Three times he sought the Presidency of the United States: once as the Libertarian Party nominee and twice as a candidate for the Republican Party. He continues in his comment:

“But there was a problem. The missile was fired from Ukraine – likely an accident in the fog of war. Was it actually a Russian missile, of course, that might mean World War III.

‘While Zelensky has been treated as a saint by the US media, the Biden Administration, and both parties in Congress, something unprecedented happened this time: the Biden Administration pushed back. According to press reports, several Zelensky calls to Biden or senior Biden Staff went unanswered.

‘The Biden Administration went on to publicly dispute Zelensky’s continued insistence that Russia shot missiles into NATO-Member Poland. After two days of Washington opposition to his claims, Zelensky finally, sort of, backed down.

‘We’ve heard rumors of President Biden’s frustration over Zelensky’s endless begging and ingratitude for the 60 or so billion dollars doled out to him by the US government, but this is the clearest public example of the Biden Administration’s acceptance that it has a “Zelensky problem.”

‘Zelensky must have understood that Washington and Brussels knew it was not a Russian missile.

‘Considering the vast intelligence capabilities of the US in that war zone, it is likely the US government knew in real time that the missiles were not Russian. For Zelensky to claim otherwise seemed almost unhinged. And for what seems like the first time, Washington noticed.

‘As a result, there has been a minor – but hopefully growing – revolt among conservatives in Washington over this dangerous episode. Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene introduced legislation demanding an audit of the tens of billions of dollars shipped to Ukraine – with perhaps $50 billion more in the pipeline.

‘When the Ukraine war hysteria finally dies down – as the Covid hysteria died down before it – it will become obvious to vastly more Americans what an absolute fiasco this whole thing has been,” writes Ron Paul.

International Affairs

Continue Reading