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The US has started to sift through various punitive policy options to confront North Korea’s overt nuclear showmanship. Defense Chief, James Mattis warned Pyongyang of a massive and overwhelming military response after it carried out its sixth nuclear test on Sunday.

The former general, who had been advocating diplomacy till last week, in a short media talk yesterday said that the US has the ability to defend itself and allies in Japan and South Korea, for its commitment to ensuring security is unflinching.” Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response both effective and overwhelming,” Mattis said after meeting President Trump on Sunday.

Hence, Mattis’ statement remains ambiguous, something which can add to Kim’s vulnerability and the likelihood of him pressing the button.

Sunday’s test was a follow-up on and an attempt to make the oft-repeated threats by Kim more credible. “The H-bomb test was carried out to examine and confirm the accuracy and credibility of the power control technology and internal structural design newly introduced into manufacturing H-bomb to be placed at the payload of the ICBM,” the official statement read.

Read more:he US territory of Guam is the next target; says Pyongyang

Hence, Mattis’ statement remains ambiguous, something which can add to Kim’s vulnerability and the likelihood of him pressing the button. Mattis implored upon Kim to pay heed to the call of the UNSC who all agree on the need to denuclearize DPRK. However, Mattis gave a word of assurance to Pyongyang “We are not looking to the total annihilation of a country, namely North Korea,” he said. “But as I said, we have many options to do so.”

While taking a dig at Beijing, he criticized his ally in Seoul and even hinted at ending the Free Trade Agreement.

However, it is difficult to think that DPRK will be mollified with a regime survival sans nuclear weapons. The absolute weapon is a crutch to Kim’s survival, dominance over the Peninsula and a symbol of prestige. Mattis, though nuanced in his wordings, gave the signals which were not needed. It is dangerous to whip up the insecurities of weak nuclear states; they are more likely to “use” the ultimate weapon if they are sure of “losing” them. Chatter is enough to indicate that a nuclearized Pyongyang is a pariah, implying that the US is most likely to pluck out the nukes in a counterforce strike.

Read more:Pyongyang tests a Hydrogen Bomb: the Peninsula is on the edge

Trump and Twitter 

Trump again took to Twitter and expectedly ramped up the vitriol against Pyongyang. He Tweeted:”North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China, which is trying to help but with little success.” While taking a dig at Beijing, he criticized his ally in Seoul and even hinted at ending the Free Trade Agreement. He said in another tweet:”South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!”

But by the look of things, despite colossal risks, DPRK may even respond to a conventional attack by a  counter-value nuclear one.The successful test has given credibility to this claim.

While Mattis was a tad circumspect in enunciating threats, Trump has, in effect hinted at a preventive war against DPRK.This could instigate a preemptive strike by Pyongyang on the US or its allies. Given that Kim does what he says and has the ability to take risks, Trump’s threats of a preventive war are utterly dangerous.The 70-year old has also proposed cutting-off trading ties with countries which do business with Pyongyang.”The United States is considering, in addition to other options, stopping all trade with any country doing business with North Korea,” he tweeted.

Read more:Trump’s Twitter rants and Kim’s red lines

With the peninsula on a tipping point, words may determine how actors will act and react. DPRK has time and again expressed the intent to hit US cities either in shape of a preemptive strike or a surprise attack. It has also kept things ambiguous in regards the threshold and the kind of threat that would merit a nuclear attack. But by the look of things, despite colossal risks, DPRK may even respond to a conventional attack by a  counter-value nuclear one.The successful test has given credibility to this claim.

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