“Once a war really happens, the result will be nothing but losing all round and no one could become a winner.”
Those are the words of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as the leaders of North Korea and the United States head toward a possible showdown this week. The Chinese seem to be the one voice of reason.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is set to do something showy this weekend to celebrate the birthday of his grandfather Kim Il Sung -- either with a new nuclear test or ballistic missile test. Trump has sent more ships to the waters off North Korea, and ominously threatened to take care of the problem with that rogue nation. Many expect Trump to bomb North Korea if a new nuclear test is done by that nation.
If Kim Jong-un goes ahead with the test, and Trump retaliates with a military action, we will be in a shooting war. Both men have an inflated view of their own military strength. Kim Jong-un seems to think the North Korean military is strong enough to take on any adversary. Trump seems convinced that the American military can bring anyone to heel by using its military strength. Both men are wrong -- and I hope it doesn't take a new war to show them that.
But the problem we face is that both of these men are extreme narcissists, who cannot admit they are ever wrong and consider backing down from a threat to be defeat. Reality means nothing to either, and both seem to have dispensed with diplomacy in favor of military threats.
Neither country needs a war. North Korea would be devastated by U.S. power, and U.S. bases and ships could be attacked and destroyed by North Korea (and South Korea and maybe even Japan could be attacked, since they are allies of the U.S.). The Chinese are right -- there would be no winner if this happened.
Can either leader be talked back from the brink of war? Can China talk Kim Jong-un into a more reasonable position? Can South Korean, Japanese, and European leaders convince Trump that a military attack on North Korea would be a serious mistake?
I certainly hope so, but I don't have much faith in either of these leaders doing the right thing. It's going to be a tense weekend as we wait to see what happens. We are closer to a new Asian war than we've been in several decades.