As the United States Vice President Mike Pence continued his visit to Australia on Sunday, the main issue on the agenda as he met with Australian Prime Minister Turnbull was the continual nuclear threat posed by the North Korea.
Tom Switzer, a leading Australia-based U.S. expert spoke with spoke to The Center on Sunday, and made it clear that the United States cannot influence political change in North Korea.
“Regime change would be fraught with the danger of unintended consequences, because North Korea would use nuclear weapons or its formidable conventional artillery to strike back at America, or American interests in the region,” Switzer said.
“I think the danger here is that Trump and Pence, by insisting that no nuclear weapons are allowed on the Korean Peninsula, they might box themselves in; and that limits their options, and it could set them on a path to an unnecessary preemptive strike.”
While all sides agree that diplomatic solutions should be given the most primacy, during his visit Pence reiterated forceful words that could be seen to stoke the flames of the ongoing tensions, while meeting with the Australian leader.
Meanwhile, the USS Carl Vinson, an American aircraft carrier, continued to charge full steam ahead towards the Sea of Japan after last being spotted on Saturday, just south of the Philippines in the Celebes Sea.
Pence said the carrier would be in position “in a matter of days” at a joint press conference he held with Turnbull, and made it clear in the leader meetings that the United States would only accept a full denuclearization option for the Korean Peninsula.
The vice president’s remarks were addressed by the official daily of the DPRK, Rodong Sinmum, which in a commentary on Saturday stated “the U.S. is pressurizing countries around the DPRK to join it in putting diplomatic pressure and high-intensity economic sanctions on the DPRK. It even threatens that it would seek out an independent way of preventing the DPRK from bolstering nuclear deterrence”.
The DPRK Foreign Ministry issued a statement dated Friday, warning Australia that their country was “coming within the range of the nuclear strike”, after Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Thursday that she supported the United States policy stance of having “all options on the table”, and that “a nuclear-armed DPRK is not acceptable to our region”.
“The present government of Australia is blindly and zealously toeing the U.S. line. It is hard to expect good words from the foreign minister of such a government,” the DPRK spokesperson said.
“The Australian foreign minister had better think twice about the consequences to be entailed by her reckless tongue-lashing before flattering the U.S.”
There has been a long history of animosity between the United States and North Korea, despite numerous attempts made at conciliation between the two which included the six-party talks, a multi-year long process to which China was a party, that ended in 2007.
Considerable ground and concessions were agreed upon to improve the peace and stability of the region during the process, however, this peaceful strategic interface suffered setbacks when both North Korea and the United States accused each other of not fulfilling their obligations.
However, Switzer said a return to the negotiating table is one which is “almost inevitable”.
“Short of a political settlement, the best thing that can be done is to contain North Korea. Containment and deterrence worked against Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, and even Saddam Hussein from the time of the Gulf War, until the invasion of Iraq,” Switzer said.
“I think North Korea can be contained. Kim Jong-Un is not mad, he is a rational calculator and he knows if he ever used weapons of mass destruction, it would guarantee massive retaliation, perhaps obliteration,”
“So it is in his interest to keep those nuclear weapons in check, and it is also in President Trump’s best interests, to not provoke him.” Switzer suggested.
The situation in the Korean Peninsula is one which could lead to disastrous consequences for the peace and security of the region, Switzer suggests, if military actions are taken which would likely only incite a disproportionate reaction from North Korea.
Rather, Switzer believes tempered restraint and engagement in diplomatic and economic measures are needed, with the hope of cooling down what is already an inflamed, and tumultuous ordeal for all parties.