THE BLOG

North Korea's Successful Missile Test Leaves Trump With No Good Options Left

04/07/2017 11:53 BST | Updated 04/07/2017 12:00 BST
Jim Bourg / Reuters

On 2 January of this year, Donald J Trump tweeted the following: "North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen!". According to some experts, this has just happened with the missile launch this morning that North Korea is hailing as its first successful intercontinental ballistic missile test. Although it's important to state that initial American statements stated that the missiles didn't pose a threat to North America, various independent experts are suggesting that although the missile cannot reach the American mainland, that it has a range of 6700 KM which would mean it could strike most of Alaska.

If this happens to be true, then Donald Trump has reached the first major foreign policy crisis of his administration as what he publicly claimed he would never let happen seems to have occurred regardless of his solemnly tweeted vow and on Independence Day to add insult to injury. There are few options that the Trump administration can now take, and they range from bad to catastrophic. They could downplay the incident and carry on business as usual, but being the whole purpose of the North Koreans in doing this was to force the Americans to recognise it as a nuclear power then the chances are that North Korea would conduct future tests in a way to avoid all doubt over the range of their missile.

The easiest thing would be to accept North Korea as a nuclear power, but that would mean America and Trump admitting to public humiliation and thus failure. Trump said he'd make America great again. Kowtowing to North Korea's fait accompli would be in no way achieving this and at any rate would give the message to other rogue regimes that America can be bullied into submission. If North Korea was accepted as a nuclear power, it would also be the most untrustworthy one, judging by its overreaction a few years ago to a Hollywood comedy about its leader. Does America want to be in a position where nuclear war is threatened over fictional depictions in the media and who knows what else? The answer is obviously no.

Trumps latest tweet suggests that: "Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all!" Given Chinese views on a collapsing North Korean state being a bigger threat to it than a nuclear one, this is unlikely. And it is especially unlikely given that large columns of trucks full of military hardware have been crossing the Chinese-North Korean border in the last week, something China cannot be unaware was happening. The only other choice and perhaps the likeliest if Trumps actions match his bellicose reputation is further escalation. The best of a bad bunch of possible moves is if America further increase sanctions and the pressure on North Korea without resorting to military action but even this is a temporary fix as North Korea would continually up the ante until either America accepted it as a nuclear power or we moved to the most extreme of actions, that being war.

War with North Korea would involve the first use of nuclear missiles since the Second World War, the worst American military casualties since Vietnam and countless civilian deaths in North and South Korea, Japan and now possibly Alaska. It is not an option to be taken lightly or to be wished for by anyone with the slightest slither of humanity. Sadly this horrible possibility has become more likely and with countless British tourists and expats in these countries and regions, would have an impact on our country even without the global environmental effect that would likely occur. In an age where unstable demagogues with a casual disregard for the consequences of their actions rule in Pyongyang and Washington among other places, this won't be the last crisis of this nature in the next five years.