While many are skeptical of the wisdom of elevating the status of the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un in a summit with the leader of the free world, President Donald Trump, it remains an open question as to whether anything useful can come out of the Singapore 12 June meeting. Nonetheless, President Trump, in order to achieve the objective of complete denuclearization of North Korea (NK), must be prepared to have many arrows in his quiver. As I have said previously, while Kim Jong-Un will be sitting at the table, make no mistake, the President and his team will actually be negotiating with China. After all, without China’s assistance, there would be no nuclear weapons program in North Korea, certainly not one as advanced as it currently is today.
In order to achieve the desired, complete, verified denuclearization of North Korea, there are many actions the President must be prepared to take against North Korea that will also be sending a direct message to China’s President Xi Jinping. Accordingly, all North Korean sanctions as well as most tariffs against China must remain in place. Clearly, the first action that must be taken is that a team of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors must verify that the North Korea actually destroyed its nuclear weapons test site on 24 May—and, a more difficult task, that there are no other backup sites to take its place. The next step should be the removal of the Chinese manufactured Transporter Erector Launchers (TELs) that give North Korea the capability to launch an ICBM in 30 minutes versus the two hours it would otherwise take.
Next, North Korea is pushing to complete work on a new submarine believed to be capable of launching multiple ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The date for completion is scheduled prior to 9 September, 2018, the 70th anniversary of the founding of North Korea. The ballistic missile submarine launch tubes must be removed or sealed shut.
To put substance into our past declaration that “all options are being considered,” a new dynamic must be introduced into the Korean equation. President Trump should have plans all ready to implement the withdrawal of all U.S. military dependents on short notice from South Korea. This will not only remove a “hostage force” from the South Korean environment, but will significantly enhance the declaration that all options are on the table. With the implementation of such a plan, we also need plans to massively reinforce our forces in the Western Pacific. This should include two or three attack carrier strike groups as well as four Air Force bomber squadrons and up to 24 fighter squadrons with accompanying support forces.
RIMPAC’s scheduled exercises
We should also plan to reintroduce tactical nuclear weapons into South Korea as well as on our forward deployed submarines. A crash program to provide cruise missile arsenal ships should also be part of the build-up. Such ships would also be useful in neutralizing China’s “stationary carrier” islands.
Japan is also directly affected by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Tokyo could positively add to general deterrence by modifying Article Nine of its constitution. Such a modification would authorize the establishment of a National Defense Force (NDF) with the Prime Minister as its commander-in-chief. Such a change would permit the NDF to defend Japan’s sovereign territory from a foreign attack (NK) and would also facilitate Japan’s participation in an Asian NATO-type alliance. In addition, we should provide Japan with advanced hypersonic cruise missile systems which would also help raise the deterrence equation.
But more is needed to get Beijing’s attention. Since China has now been disinvited to participate in the 2018 RIMPAC major fleet naval exercise, consideration should be given to adding an additional phase to the exercise, similar to what we did in the Ocean Venture series of exercises in the 1980s under President Reagan to get Moscow’s attention.
This new phase would take place in the South China Sea after completion of RIMPAC’s scheduled exercises. It should include forces from the U.S., Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia. This additional phase could involve basic convoy operations and, depending on force availability, could also include an amphibious exercise on one of the Philippine islands. Such an exercise would clearly send Beijing a clear message of resolve that its threat building in North Korea and the South China Sea will not be tolerated.
This column originally appeared in the Canada Free Press.
The views expressed in CCNS member articles are not necessarily the views or positions of the entire CCNS. They are the views of the authors, who are members of the CCNS.