Cable on North Korea: Unilateral military action must be ruled out

Vince Cable has called for a parliamentary debate on the situation with North Korea as the country conducts its sixth nuclear missile test.

He said:

This alleged advancement North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme only strengthens the need to for an urgent diplomatic response to the crisis.

There is no military solution that does not risk the lives of millions, and no doubt that Trump’s war of words with Kim Jong-un has only served to heighten tensions.

Liberal Democrats are clear that the way forward requires engaging with China and other countries in the region to deescalate tensions. The government must urgently schedule time in Parliament to discuss this issue, and any unilateral military response must be ruled out.

I have to say that I can’t see a situation where military action is going to make this situation better whether it is unilateral or not but at least Vince is, as ever, putting a bit of grown-up common sense into the debate.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 3rd Sep '17 - 1:33pm

    This is right and we of course agree.

    Some think we can bury our heads in the sand though. That is absurd.

    The whole of the world needs to act on this before the regime , led by one of the really dangerous and disturbed of leaders , in North Korea , is dealt with by someone in his own way , though a million miles away in dangerous and disturbed, is nonetheless likely to cause danger and disturb things , ie the US president!

    The solution is to engage people of the calibre of former president Cater , who , under a genuinely , in many ways , good president, Clinton, won the Nobel peace prize primarily for his work in the 90,s in Korea as an envoy.

    The world must act for peace on this or the world shall have to act militarily as in the first Gulf war or in Kosovo. Doing nothing is no option.

  • We cannot rule out military action. Otherwise North Korea will think okay boys they are not going to do anything, let’s carry on. We failed in the Rhineland in 1936 and that led to escalation after escalation and millions dead, concentration camps etc etc. If the United States had done nothing militarily in 1962 over Cuba hat would have been longer term results. Liberals must not be seen as soft in the crisis. I suspect the U S has something up its sleeve.

  • nigel hunter 3rd Sep '17 - 3:36pm

    In 1953 a seazefire was arranged to bring to a halt the Korean War. There was NO PEACE TREATY SIGNED. This has lead to the North forever looking over their shoulder, when will America attack us we must remain strong. The resulting fear? has allowed the regime to grow to the present position. A signed peace treaty would give them no reason to continue with their present actions. It would take away their excuse that they are only defending themselves from American/West aggression and would put the onus on them to ‘cool it’. Whilst they will have their nuclear weapons the threat to use them will disappear

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Sep '17 - 4:30pm

    ” If the United States had done nothing militarily in 1962 over Cuba hat would have been longer term results.”
    As I recall (I was a teenager at the time) the USA did not have to fire a shot during the Cuban missile crisis – and there was a reasonably rational human being – J F Kennedy – with his finger on the nuclear button.

    The USA blockaded Cuba. I recall reading something some years ago about the discussions prior to the blockade being imposed – during which JFK was pointing out that they might stop a ship and find it was just carrying baby food or something else just as innocent – bad publicity at the very least.

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Sep ’17 – 4:30pm………………..As I recall (I was a teenager at the time) the USA did not have to fire a shot during the Cuban missile crisis – and there was a reasonably rational human being – J F Kennedy – with his finger on the nuclear button……….

    As I recall there were two rational human beings…….. Kruschev agreed to halt the ships and to remove the missiles in exchange for the US removal of Jupiter missiles on the USSR’s Turkish border… Attorney General Robert Kennedy met secretly with Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin, and indicated that the United States was planning to remove the Jupiter missiles from Turkey anyway, and that it would do so soon, but this could not be part of any public resolution of the missile crisis. On October 28, Khrushchev issued a public statement that Soviet missiles would be dismantled and removed from Cuba…..

    A note to theakes 3rd Sep ’17 – 1:39pm…’Jaw, jaw’ is ALWAYS better than’ War, war….

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Sep '17 - 5:45pm

    Agree Krushchev also rational. I was emphasising JFK’s rationality due to concerns about the present incumbent of that post!

  • All I said is that you cannot rule force out.
    My father very left wing and bit of a pacifist at the time, yet always believed the failure to act militarily in 36 created the certain path to war.
    In 1962 the US was prepared to invade Cuba if the sites were not taken down and troops were embarked on the Florida coast. The navy was authorised to use force to maintain the blockade – there is the famous incident with the Russian submarine. If the threat of force was not there heaven only knows what would have happened. ( I was working in London over the weekend of maximum anxiety, well remember as we left the office on the Friday evening i said to a more senior colleague, see you Monday, he looked at me and with another said, lets hope so). We did not know whether we would be alive or dead that weekend.
    As i said you cannot rule force, of whatever form, out.

  • Mick Taylor 3rd Sep '17 - 6:02pm

    Sorry, Theakes. We must rule out force. That will only ratchet up the whole standoff. We need to offer N. Korea some reason to step back not continue with sabre rattling. Nuclear bombs aren’t boys’ toys, their use would lead to millions of immediate deaths and many more lingering ones.
    Only national pride prevents getting round the table and we must firmly tell the USA to come off its high horse and start talking. China can perhaps be relied on to tell N. Korea to get round the table but it’s up to US allies to tell Trump to do so.
    To agree with expats “Jaw jaw is ALWAYS better than war, war” (Winston Churchill I believe)

  • Nonconformistradical 3rd Sep '17 - 7:01pm

    @Mick Taylor
    “We need to offer N. Korea some reason to step back not continue with sabre rattling.”

    While I’d like this to happen I’m not holding my breath.
    If this is aimed at China – we need China on side not being given reason not to cooperate.

  • Never mind nukes, Seoul’s 10 million residents are in artillery range of the border, and North Korea maintains one of the largest standing armies in the world. There is no military solution that doesn’t result in countless civilian deaths, and that cannot be allowed to happen.

    Kim Jong-Un has seen what happened to Saddam Hussein and Col. Gadaffi and isn’t going to let the same happen to him. He knows full well that possesion of nukes and the means to deliver them are the ultimate guarantee of his long term survival. However he also knows that any pre-emptive attack on the US or his neighbours would be suicide.

    Trump needs to dial back the rhetoric – Kim Jong-Un won’t back down as a result of threats, and millions of Korean lives are not a price worth paying for a military victory.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Sep '17 - 12:04am

    The attempts at posturing remain merely that.

    A military solution is not the one worth thinking about.

    Equally absurd is to think North Korea under this leader is going to sit at a table to chat.

    Carter talked to members of the predecessor regime.

    The solution is to make allies in China who have and can make allies in North Korea and it must happen asap.

    To let him develop these weapons is not an option.

    The man and the regime are the oddest in the world.

  • Steve Trevethan 4th Sep '17 - 1:06pm

    Might it help if our party were to try to help the leadership of the US to be less arrogant, less imperial and less belligerent?

    “The US is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the last century passed and will be true for the century to come.” [So all other nations including the UK and North Vietnam are dispensible? So Russia and the UK were unimportant in the WW2 fight against fascism?]

    “From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums.” [So the US sees “Globalisation” as a “Zero- Sum” activity
    by which only the US gains and not a “Non Zero-Sum activity through which all may benefit, and wants to exclude sovereign nations from discussions which affect them?

    “America’s willingness to apply force around the world is the ultimate safeguard against chaos.” [ So how might ex-president Obama, who said all these quoted comments to graduates at West Point Military Academy, explain this benign lack of chaos to the citizens of Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria etc?]

  • Eddie Sammon 4th Sep '17 - 1:50pm

    We can’t have a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula, which would likely hit Japan too.

    We need serious planning about what to do if Kim Jong-Un launches a missile strike, nuclear or non-nuclear. I don’t think we should fire back with nuclear but we would need to find a way to end the regime as soon as possible. I think it’s a job for the CIA and other intelligence agencies, including MI6.

    Maybe drone strikes could do the job, I don’t know.

  • Reading the comments it would seem no-one really knows what to do. That is why the military option has to be part of any negotiating package otherwise the North Koreans will go on and on until an Armegeddon point is reached. More and more Trade sanctions will punish the North Korean populalation even more than it is at the moment. Criticising the US for its position is one thing but let us remember the North Koreans invaded in 1950 with Russian and Chinese sanction once the United States had withdrawn to Japan under the US and Soviet withdrawl aggrement. Without the US sacrifice in military units during the first 12 weeks of the war in the Pusan pocket, when outnumbered both in terms of personnel and equipment, the South would have ceased to exist. I am sure the US has something up its sleeve, it has been faced with this prospective scenario for a long time.

  • Restarting hostilities on the Korean peninsula is clearly to be avoided at all costs. The policy of appeasement has failed to deter N. Korea, since its began development of nuclear capabilities in the early eighties. It seems the only course of action left open is a Chinese led regime change to replace the Kim dynasty with a more pragmatic and stable communist leader.

    A successful Chinese invasion or regime change forced by the threat of a Chinese invasion, would put North Korea under a Chinese nuclear umbrella, benefiting from a credible security guarantee.

    Such a strategy likely has a decent chance of winning over large parts of the Korean People’s Army . Whereas a nuclear exchange with the U.S. would mean devastation, submission to China would promise survival, and presumably a degree of continued autonomy. For all except those closest to Kim, the choice would not seem to be a difficult one.

    If China is serious about taking a leadership role in the Asia-Pacific region, here is its first big test of legitimacy and credibility. If China is unwilling or unable to bring Kim under control, then the USA is the only remaining military power capable of bringing sufficient force to bear to do it, but at the potential cost of devastating destruction for the inhabitants of Seoul.

  • Isn’t N.Korea about the only territory neighbouring China, that China isn’t claiming as being part of China; yet will defend if attacked as if it were an attack on China…

    I thus suspect that it suits China and it’s imperialist aspirations, to have a bellicose N.Korea. Hence relations with China are critical to any resolution, especially any that involve military action against N.Korea.

  • Again, why do we need to “do” anything about N. Korea?

    If you are 100% certain that in the future Kim will launch an attack on S. Korea/Japan etc. then the time to strike is now….If you are not 100% certain then don’t threaten Kim with anything…
    The only nation that can deal with Kim, without causing a nuclear war in the far east (or even WW3) is China…. They don’t want a war and will be working behind the scenes to do what they can… Shouting publicly at China to “do something” is counter-productive.

    The west, especially the US, should stop making threats…Kim won’t listen and will carry on testing missiles and nukes….Stay calm and keep quiet…

    Those of us old enough to remember the Cuban Crisis of 1962 would have been even more worried at the time had we known the story of the Russian sub.B59 being ‘depth charged’ by US warships….One man (Vasili Arkhipov) refused to sanction the use of nukes by the sub…That was how close the world, as we know it, came to ending….

    If the US/S. Korea start ‘tooling up’ on the N. Korean border there may be no ‘Vasili Arkhipov’ if someone on either side makes a mistake..

  • Yet again. (sorry Expats) wisdom from Expats.

    I remember the Cuban missile crisis well and was working at Party HQ in Victoria Street at the time. Apparently Jo Grimond was asked what he would do if a nuclear war broke out. He responded “I shall return to my constituency”.

    As older folk will know, very conveniently, it was Orkney & Shetland.

  • Bernard Aris 4th Sep '17 - 9:06pm

    Let’s look at the Chinese and western perspectives around the present Korea crisis.

    China is recovering from its “Century of Humiliation”, from the Opium Wars in the 1840’s till 1949: Mao conquers Mainland China. At least that is what every old Cina hand will tell you is its main theme in school-history teaching and official self-image. It wants to regain its Superpower status it had (according to professor Paul Kennedy’s book Rise & Fall of Great Powers) until around the 16th century (Europeans entering the Pacific markets & Chinese Diaspora trading network there; Manchu’s pressuring last Han imperial dynasty).
    For that, it says it welcomes foreign visitors like Marco Polo, who come to advise and offer trade deals (the original motive for Venetian trader Polo traveling down the Silk Road), with no western state threatening anything in the background.

    The West wants to put pressure on China without unleashing a trade war or China using its trade surplus with- (and state debt holdings in bonds from) the US.

    OK, let’s combine both perspectives without rocking the Western-Chines boat too hard.

    Why not use China’s predilection for non-state actors like Marco Polo, and
    *) on the same day alter the Foreign Office Travel Advisory for all business, academic (Groningen and Wageningen Universities in the Netherlands, helping China to make milkpowder Chinese consumers trust; they boycott Chines brands after poison scandals) and tourist visitors from all EU governments, and if possible Japan and South Korea too?
    Such advice can easily be rescinded, but in the mean time with fewer Marco Polo’s showing up, Peking is getting a western message.
    *) They can’t have Polo visits while ignoring western security concerns around North Korea dropping rockets all over the place.

  • Looks like North Korea may be preparing another missile launch.

    The NYT’s David E. Sanger lays out the unpalatable options for a response: pre-emptive strike that would at best only be a glancing blow against the North’s capabilities. Shoot it down with the proven Aegis anti-missile system on U.S. warships in the Pacific. Employ the $300 billion U.S. ballistic missile defense systems based in California and Alaska…which only have about a 50 percent success rate, and then only under testing conditions designed to ensure success.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Oct '17 - 7:33pm

    When missile launches in North Korea were failing at launch US spokesmen were saying that they “could not confirm or deny” US involvement, such as by cyber warfare. Currently missile launches are not failing.

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