How the DPRK riddle is freaking out the US establishment

by Pepe Escobar for the Saker blog

Mattis—the imperial proconsul—being briefed by vassal army officers in South Korea.
The 19th Party Congress has made it very clear that “socialism with Chinese characteristics” – as codified by President Xi Jinping – is China’s road map ahead. Not only the strategy graphically eschews those much-lauded “Western values”; it will, in Xi’s own words, offer “a new option for other countries and nations who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence.”

Xinhua even dared to venture, “the 21st century is likely to see capitalism lose its appeal while the socialist movement, led by China, rapidly catches up”.

To say this won’t go down very well in the West, especially in the US, may be the understatement of the century – even considering that the Chinese system is more like “neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics.”

It’s enlightening to crisscross what happened in Beijing with what was happening in Washington on the eve of President Trump’s trip to Asia, when he will visit China but also Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines. Discussion of virtually all the key issues in Asia-Pacific will be on the table.

Asia-Pacific is where the real action is – geopolitically and geoeconomically. And once again, the number one issue in the intractability stakes will be the DPRK.

At a recent meeting with top US military and intelligence chiefs Trump, referring to the DPRK, asked to be provided “with a broad range of military options, when needed, at a much faster pace.”

For his part, Pentagon head Mattis has emphasized that “the US army must stand ready.” He has been extolling his targeted military audience to read T.R. Fehrenbach’s This Kind of War – a history of the 1950-1953 Korean War, and even extracting a chilling quote from it; “You may fly over a nation forever, you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life. But if you desire to defend it… you must do this on the ground the way the Roman legions did: by putting your young men in the mud.”

Yet the real story regarding the Trump meeting is what was taking place behind the scenes involving key business/economic decision makers – call them some of the Masters of the Universe – as revealed to me by a high-level intel source privy to these meetings. The conclusions of the debate were then presented directly to Trump, ahead of his visit to Asia.

The Sudetenland revival

The source stressed how principals in these meetings were familiar with “key strategists above Mattis who were responsible for most of the major US defense programs in place.” They know, for instance, how “we are four generations behind in defensive missiles which seals the Russian airspace” – even though any expert in US Think Tankland persists in total denial.

The number one concern is about “the present satellite and missile capacity of North Korea to detonate nuclear bombs over the US knocking out the entire electronic infrastructure through a

electromagnetic impulse (EMP) attack liquidating 90% of the American population within a year. This concurs with public statements by Putin that tiny countries in the future can obtain the capacity to destroy superpowers.”

Putin’s comment should be interpreted as this possible DPRK threat being capable of affecting a very advanced nation much more than those in the Global South; a completely different dimension compared to the former MAD concept of mutually assured (nuclear) destruction.

In his own presentation to Trump, Mattis emphasized the EMP “as a potential horror beyond imagination. Within 24 hours Walmart shelves would have nothing on them.  Food distribution would grind to a halt. Food riots all over the US would take place. 80% of the population would perish according to Mattis.”

The debate then moved to whether the DPRK already possesses submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). According to Heritage’s Bruce Klingner, the DPRK has twenty Romeo class submarines capable of carrying SBLMs (their range is 9,000 miles; the distance from Pyongyang to New York City is 6,783 miles). True, they are old, built in the 1950s. The question is open on how far advanced the DPRK is in miniaturization.

The debate considered the possibility the EMP threat was “a leak from Mattis to justify war tension, or it so should be interpreted by China and Russia. Mattis said the US would lose 80% of their population based on Pentagon studies, though they did not go that far. Mattis has no strategic sense at all and should be no more than a minor Marine functionary as his ability is very limited.”

Regardless of Mattis’s judgement, the principals agreed that the highest concern is the miniaturization of a hydrogen bomb set off via satellite as an EMP attack – even though that would not be very high above the earth and could, in theory, be knocked out by US ground missiles.

What was interesting is that this possible DPRK threat invoked the specter of the Sudetenland.

“The Sudetenland analogy was one of the principals’ way of expressing that WWIII has already started”, according to the source. “My interpretation was that he was referring to actions of North Korea, and actions in Syria and Ukraine. Those were his words, not mine. You could say Russia occupied Crimea or exerts its influence over Donbass. Or has displaced the US in Iraq and Syria. The main point is that Russia and China are starting to roll back US influence. So the North Korea threat is also part of Sudetenland.”

What’s clear is that the DPRK drama is further straining US alliances, and not only in Northwest Asia. According to the source, “a lot of this has to do with a wide perception that US weaponry does not measure up to the Russians and Chinese. And that US interests such as stopping North Korea from reaching the US overrides US considerations of its allies. These alliance structures are falling apart out of sight of the public.”

In a nutshell, this behind the scenes debate does show how alarmed is the US establishment. It’s unclear what Trump will make of its conclusions as he gets ready to hit the Asia trail.

Wang Yang to the rescue?

The ultimate question for the US establishment is how to find some sort of balance in breaking up the Eurasian landmass from the long-term China-Russia strategic partnership embrace. Tactics include mixing a push to resurrect Pilsudski’s

Intermarium Plan against Russia with countering China by seeking to ally India, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. This is by now classic Cold War 2.0 – but this time around with China and Russia massively stronger than the alliances attempted against them, and on top of it constituted as a Eurasian peer-competitor strategic partnership.

Progressive alienation, simultaneously, of China, Russia and Germany (for instance, via US Congress sanctions on German companies over Nord Stream Two), is not only a de facto act of strategic insanity. This will end up forcing the trio into a solid, long-term realignment in which Washington will be completely alienated from the entire Eurasian landmass to the benefit of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its spin-offs.

In their upcoming meeting in Beijing, a plausible scenario is Xi suggesting Trump the possibility of a deal with Kim Jong-un – eventually leading to de facto ending of the Korean War (instead of the current armistice). The process would include multilateral security guarantees (by the US, and endorsed/supervised by Russia and China) and a US no-sanction commitment towards some sort of economic opening if the DPRK freezes for good the testing of nuclear weapons and ICBMs. Xi would be a sort of guarantor of the DPRK. The question is whether Pyongyang would accept it.

In realpolitik terms there’s not much the Trump administration can do about the DPRK, except work through Beijing and Moscow to defuse the crisis. Some action is underway via the so-called “New York channel”, with Joseph Yun, US negotiator for North Korea, talking to diplomats at the DPRK mission to the UN. A potential, unilateral US attack on the DPRK could trigger the very World War destruction it’s supposed to halt, as China has made it quite clear.

So all eyes, once again, are on China. Apart from Xi, the man to watch with the emergence of the new 7-member Politburo Standing Committee is Wang Yang – the number four in the hierarchy who now becomes executive vice-premier.

Wang is the former party chief in both Chongqing and Guangdong, and previously vice-premier in charge of agriculture and foreign trade. He’s the top Chinese official dealing with Washington on economy and trade – and may now have his work cut out for him; to convince Team Trump, via Chinese diplomacy, that to do business with the DPRK is actually a good deal.

That certainly beats the specter of an EMP inferno.

Pepe Escobar-nova-menor

Distinguished Collaborator Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of “Globalistan” (2007), “Red Zone Blues” (2007), “Obama does Globalistan” (2009) and “Empire of Chaos” (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is “2030”, also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015. 

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One thought on “How the DPRK riddle is freaking out the US establishment


    Anonymous on November 02, 2017 · at 10:07 am UTC
    Trump has apparently twitted himself into a corner where all of his options are off his table.

    He has clearly taken diplomacy off the table.
    And a military strike would kill hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of South Koreans, so that is an option that is unlikely to be approved by America’s South Korean allies.

    With no cards to play, Trump is now apparently returning to relying on China and Russia to provide him with an option. Although, the option they repeatedly give Trump has also been taken off the table as apparently American military drills are sacred and can not be even delayed to reach a resolution.

    Trump has no personal experience in foreign policy or military matters. And if the months of Trump handling the North Korea crisis, his ‘art of the deal’ was all just BS to sell books. Which means that Trump is completely reliant on the generals he’s surrounded himself with as top advisors. And these don’t seem to be the cream of the crop of American generals, which isn’t a very elite crew in the first place. They seem to be good at using overwhelming force to crush far, far weaker opponents, but even then they don’t seem very good at anticipating what will follow and dealing with it.

    I was hoping that this might just settle down into Trump and Kim throwing insults at each other like two American professional wrestlers, but lately the propaganda machine has been ramping up such that Kim is now being called a direct threat to the USA that must be dealt with.

    Yet, Trump the Twit President doesn’t seem to have any options to deal with North Korea. He can kill a million people or so, and make sure that Seoul and its environs are destroyed like Raqqa and Mosul which won’t do anything good to the world economy. He can try to force a break between USA and China, which would destroy the American economy which is now reliant on near-slave-labor making cheap goods for Walmart. But its hard to see how even Trump can spin such outcomes as being good for the USA, and I suspect that the destruction of Seoul would completely destroy the US alliance system around the world because what sort of idiot would want to be America’s ally after they see that such an alliance got a million or so South Koreans killed and their economy destroyed.

    Ant. on November 02, 2017 · at 2:17 pm UTC
    My response to the courageously-named anonymous:

    I agree, Trump is not a international statesman. Not a diplomat. He is a self-declared US nationalist, which is how he gained his presidency, by appealing to those who have been left behind in the ‘fly-over states’. He wants to see ‘America Great Again’. His comments (tweets) are always aimed at a domestic audience.

    This necessarily means rolling back various free-trade agreements, which do nothing but encourage those companies with the wherewithal to move their manufacturing overseas where labour costs are vastly cheaper, for profitability, and necessarily damaging the domestic economy.

    We’re talking about globalist companies here. You can say the same about the politics of the rest of the western world, who always follow their political masters in the US of A, since they are generally gutless arseholes who lack the courage to upset an existing apple cart (power structures), which will generally be to their own disadvantage, since they will be forced to admit their long-standing policies are utter failures.

    What this also necessarily means is that those same globalist companies are anti-social. They are happy to destroy the very societies that nurtured them for their own greed.

    And yet the vast amount of public income (taxation) comes from the poor buggers that have no say, except for this joke called democracy, which I think is little short of a rort.

    The links I provided above are only representative, any internet search (use your own favourite search engine, mine is certainly not Google) can provide many similar statistics that say the wealthy pay the least amount of their way, yet have most control over government policies in the west.

    Which may be why they hate the Russian Federation / Peoples’ Republic of China so much. They retain state-owned industries, for the benefit of their socialist republics, for the benefit of their societies.

    Dare I say it, a bit like Moamar Khaddafi’s Jamahariya.

    I claim western economics has absolutely no future, yet western politics is dominated by economists. Referring back to the links above, all western economists will claim that all countries need a bigger population, so we can garner more taxes (consumerism), and therefore balance a public budget that increasingly needs to support those people left behind by global economic rationality.

    Which seems senseless to me. Paying richer Peters to pay a lot more of poorer Pauls. I can’t see how that will can work. You’re asking for you’re own populist revolution.

    Alright, off my usual high-horse.

    Back to topic:

    Any armchair general will know that USA simply has no good military options against North Korea. Any military strike against DPRK will result in massive civilian casualties for their alleged allies, particularly South Korea, maybe Japan to boot.

    ‘Decapitation strikes’ won’t work either, the People’s Party and military is thoroughly entrenched.

    Especially now DPRK has nuclear weapons, and apparently the technology to deliver them. Which is purely for their own self-defense, as has been said, they have seen what has happened to independent governments that have no serious means of striking back against an insensate foe that can bring to bear massive materiel.

    Most westerners have no clue about the recent history of the Korean Peninsula. Few understand that the Korean War was to stop the unification of the Korean people for Cold War reasons, not for the benefit of alleged ‘democratic’ South Koreans, who never wanted to be split from their North Korean brothers / sisters.

    Neither the Russian Federation nor the People’s Republic of China will accept the ‘Great Satan’ on their eastern borders.

    Any military action by the US of A against North Korea will not just result in great woe for South Korea, I think it will almost certainly result in a nuclear WW3.

    I strenuously hope Mr. President Trump’s military council, and Mr. President Trump himself, fully understand that, all huff and puff to the side.

    Anonymous on November 02, 2017 · at 10:07 am UTC
    ” “…that tiny countries in the future can obtain the capacity to destroy superpowers.”…”

    Indeed this is long established.

    In 1964, I believe, at Cal Tech in Pasadena California there were presented objective science lectures – essentially engineering lectures, entitled “A Ballistic Missile for an Nth State” (if I recall the title precisely. Within or under that rubric a sub-set of lecture dealt with “pay-loads”. There could be at that time only one kind of payload.

    Please refer to the Nth Country Experiment as to making payloads…there are strong implications.

    Ahemmm. 1964. Get it?

    Anonymous on November 02, 2017 · at 10:52 am UTC
    Trump is being forced into a corner by halfwits claiming he is a Russian mole.

    He is being threatened with impeachment on charges of treason. Not only that they are going to go after his kith and kin too. To save all he loves war might be only option he has. Crazy choice for sure but that is what you get when you accuse an innocent man of a crime he could not possibly have committed.

    Lodewijk Langeweg on November 02, 2017 · at 11:23 am UTC
    Kim Jong-un doesn’t want to go the way of Saddam Hussein and Moammar Gaddaffi. So he’s going to continue with the development of his nuclear defense.

    The US “elite” is finally going to find out that they’re not the world bully any more. In case they would be so insane as to militarily attack North Korea they will find out the hard way. Even if they would attack, the whole world population will blame them for the destruction of millions of innocent citizens in North and South Korea. And possibly in the US as well. Especially the latter scenario would teach the US citizens that they must no longer trust the deep state and “elite” globalist power brokers. Because they do exist, and it will be known, no matter how the MSM they own has been concealing that.

    If they don’t they’ll discover it the soft way. But either way, they will have to get used to the idea they’re not “exceptional.”

    Lodewijk Langeweg on November 02, 2017 · at 11:30 am UTC
    RT: “N. Korea won’t think twice about ‘pressing button’ if US strikes, defector and former diplomat warns”

    Zena on November 02, 2017 · at 12:30 pm UTC
    Or to put it more accurately – if the US attacks North Korea, North Korea will defend itself – yes?
    How is that different from what Russia would do, China would do, Iran would do and so on?
    Don’t see the point of the RT article.

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