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Syed Ali Zia Jaffery |

Japan was jostled when Kim’s North Korea fired an IRBM that flew over its territory. Despite condemnations and threats from foes and friends alike, Pyongyang said that this was just a  precursor for military operations. After putting off his plans to attack Guam earlier this month, Kim has once again started to eye the US territory where 160,000 US personnel are based. The launch was “the first step of the military operation of the (North Korean military) in the Pacific and a meaningful prelude to containing Guam,” state media said. The intermediate-range missile, identified by the North Koreans as the Hwasong-12, flew over Japan, escalating the already-simmering nuclear brinkmanship on the peninsula.

Read more: North Korea undeterred despite Tillerson’s optimism for talks

There are many takeaways from this most provocative act on part of Kim Jong Un, the fiery young leader of DPRK. One that his threats to Guam were not bluff. If anything, the threat to Guam is credible. The IRBM went in the direction of Guam which is a follow-up on the threats dished out earlier this month. The missile launch is a clear-cut signal from Kim to the US. It also shows that Kim is willing to take risks and is unfazed. However, the chances of Kim drawing first blood are increasing.

This comes after the 70-year old said that he is 100 percent behind his ally Japan. Concomitant to it South Korea carried-out a bombing drill on the Northern border with North Korea on Tuesday.

Twitter and Nuclear deterrence

Trump took to his favorite website, Twitter once again. He gave no threat, no warning but charted out the future course that he is likely to tread on. He tweeted: “The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!”

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

This comes after the 70-year old said that he is 100 percent behind his ally Japan. Concomitant to it South Korea carried-out a bombing drill on the Northern border with North Korea on Tuesday. The bombing was ordered by South Korean president Moon Jae-in and used four F15K fighter jets to drop a flurry of MK84 multi-purpose bombs in a bid to demonstrate ‘overwhelming force’.

Read more: Missile flies over Japan; the Korean Peninsula at a tipping point

Trump’s Twitter rants have given just the signals which shouldn’t have been given. Kim has the ability at his disposal and the desire to press the button.

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 looks of things, despite colossal risks, DPRK may even respond to a conventional attack by a nuclear one.

Trump’s Twitter rants have given just the signals which shouldn’t have been given. Kim has the ability at his disposal and the desire to press the button. Therefore cities in the US mainland and those in South Korea are held, hostage. With DPRK’s threat credible, the US may find counterforce strikes more alluring, for it can outlaw the capacity of Kim to annihilate cities in the US, Japan, and South Korea. Here it is important to understand that Kim knows that nuclear weapons are a crutch for his regime; he cannot lose them at all; Iraq and Libya are examples that he will have in mind. Conventional operations against North Korea will definitely be responded to with a strategic weapon, resulting in the sure short destruction of Seoul or any US city. The US can therefore not risk that by any means. This increases the chance of them resorting to a first counterforce strike.

His cabinet members are cognizant of the need for diplomacy but his off the cuff remarks may cause a “rational” Kim to draw first blood. Even dishing out threats to strike first are keeping the US at bay. Trump needs to read nuclear strategy before tweeting!

This puts Kim under the predicament, popularly known as the ‘use or lose ‘ dilemma. Kim cannot lose them; he can still use them and hope to get away.

This danger has not dawned upon Trump as he thinks that weaker states can wilt under mounting threats in spite of having what Bernard Brodie called an “absolute weapon”. Small states go nuclear in order to obviate threats; they are more likely to use nukes when threats mount. The problem is that DPRK will not and cannot launch counterforce strikes; their best bet will be at the cost of innocent lives. Trump’s Twitter diatribes are fast-leading towards deterrence failure. His cabinet members are cognizant of the need for diplomacy but his off the cuff remarks may cause a “rational” Kim to draw first blood. Even dishing out threats to strike first are keeping the US at bay. Trump needs to read nuclear strategy before tweeting! Kim is getting away , leaving little options for Trump on the table.

Syed Ali Zia Jaffery is a Research Analyst and Sub Editor at Global Village Space.He frequently writes on defense and strategic affairs but cricket is his passion above else. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Syed Ali Zia Jaffery is a Research Analyst and Sub-Editor at Global Village Space (GVS). He frequently writes on defense and strategic affairs of South Asia.

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