Donald Trump has essentially confirmed that the tense stand-off with North Korea is over and what’s more is that he has confirmed that it was North Korea which ultimately took control of the situation, de-escalated it of its own volition and that the US simply accepted the fact that in spite of the colourful rhetoric, North Korea had no intention of engaging in anything but defensive activities which now appear not to be necessary in any case.
Trump’s Tweet is reproduced below:
Yesterday, North Korea offered an olive branch to the US stating that so long as the US does not engage in aggressive measures against the US, it will not proceed with any strikes on US targets, including the Pacific US territory of Guam.
With both sides assuring one another they were mutually “locked and loaded” to borrow a phrase from Donald Trump, it was North Korea who extended the first and most clear opportunity for de-escalation.
As I wrote yesterday,
“At first glace, the statement (from North Korea addressed to the US) would appear to be a further threat to the United States as it confirms that North Korea is ready and able to strike at the US territory of Guam. However, on closer inspection, the statement, in spite of its dramatic language, actually presents the United States with an opportunity to withdraw from its own military plans to strike North Korea, plans which the US has stated in terms as explicit as North Korea and return to a dialogue based peace process which is advocated by China, Russia, South Korea and also Philippines.
The United States, particularly under Donald Trump, will almost certainly be unwilling to de-escalate the crisis without its own face-saving dramatic rhetoric on the subject. However, events from June and July of 2017 do attest to the fact that under certain conditions, the Trump administration is able to engage in a geo-political climb-down while still affording Trump the much coveted ‘victory lap’ designed for domestic consumption.
Just over a week prior to Donald Trump’s scheduled meeting with Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in Hamburg, the United States through Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley threatened Syria with preemptive military action for a chemical weapons attack that never happened and objectively never could happen.
The entire story vanished once Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin agreed to jointly enforce a ceasefire in a new de-escalation zone in south western Syria, along with Jordan.
Thus the Trump administration went from a position of seemingly inevitable strikes against Syrian Arab Republic targets to a position in where the US became integrated into a largely Russian authored Syrian peace process.
It seems that the US was able to read the statement carefully enough to realise that North Korea was extending an olive branch and Donald Trump has reacted in a manner which by his standards are remarkably subdued insofar as he is not unilaterally taking the credit for the apparent thaw in the stand-off.
At this point it will be essential for the US to follow the counsel of China and Russia and engage in direct diplomacy with Pyongyang whenever and wherever possible.