‘A Real Danger’ of ‘Miscalculation’ Between US, North Korea, Expert Warns

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
By Paul Martin


The recent report that the US is preparing their B-52 nuclear-capable bombers for 24-hour readiness, although denied by the Pentagon, nevertheless highlights the urgent need for de-escalation measures. Radio Sputnik spoke with Dr. Howard Stoffer, associate professor with the National Security Program at the University of New Haven, about ways out.

Sputnik: So far we’ve only seen Pyongyang responding to threats by making further threats. What’s the US endgame here?

Howard Stoffer: It’s hard to say. I think it’s what it has been for the last 25 years — that is, denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and to convince North Korea that their security would be better off without having a nuclear capability. But right now Kim Jong-un has continuously said publicly that he wants nuclear weapons, because that’s the only way he can be sure that the US would not depose him, decapitate his regime, as he has seen with Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, who allegedly had nuclear weapons and once they gave them up, were removed. I’m a little concerned however, that President Trump’s decision to decertify the Iran deal sends a very negative signal, because it basically says the US will not allow Iran to stay non-nuclear because they think it’s a bad deal, and that sends a negative incentive to the North to want to sign a similar agreement. I guess the endgame is to get the North to stand down, to get the North less threatening to the South and to focus on its own development. That would be the best outcome.

Sputnik: Russia and China have repeatedly called for a stop to the dangerous muscle flexing and a return to diplomacy. Would Washington take heed of such calls?

Stoffer: That’s hard to say but I’m hoping they will. Diplomacy is always a better alternative to using military force. We have to regard the use of military force as the last possible step. Unless, of course, the North does something absolutely threatening, like, for example, landing the missiles in Guam, or landing the missiles — whether they be armed or not having any warheads — on the West Coast of the United States or possibly even detonating a nuclear weapon over the Pacific in an atmospheric test. But surely they are extreme steps. There’s a lot of room for diplomacy, there’s a lot of room for regional actors — Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, the United States — to sit down with the North and try to figure out a way to give them the kind of guarantees they’re looking for, [so] that they would be willing to stop their program and eventually denuclearize their program. Because every country that has acquired nuclear weapons has had less security — most particularly looking at India and Pakistan — than those that never went to nuclear level.

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