How Trump could push Japan, S Korea to go nuclear – Asia Times

How Trump could push Japan, S Korea to go nuclear - Asia Times

Will Donald Trump’s re-election in the White House spark a nuclear weapons race that will start in South Korea and spread to Japan and perhaps Taiwan? This is the one that is least openly discussed in Tokyo out of all the possible effects of a Trump win. However, there is significant discussion about this gloomy prospect behind closed doors.

The Chinese language of the original president’s title is Toranpu. The number one question I had with Japanese politicians was” What if Trump” during my recent extended stay there? – the phrase used to reflect on the death of Japan if Trump is elected president.

Many problems loomed in the minds of Japan’s international policy wealthy, including:

  • a de facto retreat to Russia in the conflict in Ukraine, enticing China and perhaps North Korea.
  • implementation of a 60 % tax on all Chinese products, or even more severe taxes that target Japan and Europe.
  • demands that Japan, and another allies, pay huge amounts to the US to maintain American forces stationed worldwide.

All of those” America First” techniques are perfectly believable, even possible, given Trump’s previous actions and present assertions. To top it off, Chinese policymakers asserted that they were confident in their ability to manage Trump, following Shinzo Abe’s model: deceive him, pay him well, and bolster ties with his advisors.

Tora is not only a simplified version of the Trump label as it’s pronounced in Chinese, Toranpu. A homonym, even an word, gained popularity when it was used in the name of the 1970 movie’ Tora! Tora! Tora!’ That code was used in 1941 to signal the start of the “lightning attack” on Pearl Harbor, the” totsugeki raigeki.” Photo: Wikipedia

If we have a great understanding in progress with the security and national security staff without Trump, as during the second Trump administration, that will help, a former top Japanese foreign ministry official told me.

The Chinese government will immediately hit the US about the significance of British bases there, believing that Trump’s rely on a fight with China will depend in part on maintaining the security alliance.

A senior foreign policy advisor to current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in a private conversation that he would n’t withdraw all of his forces from Japan. He might only want to do so for 30 to 40 %.

South Korean officials from across the Tsushima Strait also assert that a Trump re-election can be manipulated in some ways without putting in a dent in the empire on which their safety is a stumbling block. There are also significant concerns that Trump will immediately withdraw US forces from Korea, which have been exacerbated by Seoul’s failure to fulfill unreachable demands for payment.

Trump’s comments about his ideas for a second term in a new expanded interview with Time Magazine rekindled these doubts.

” We have 40, 000 troops]in South Korea], and in a somewhat precarious position”, Trump said, overstating the actual level of forces ( 28, 500 ) while restating his demand that the Koreans” step up and pay”.

This is not just bribery of safety money, like gangster money. ” Why do we protect anyone”? he told Time. ” We’re talking about a very powerful state”.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, in his recent press conference following his group’s battle in the National Assembly votes, skillfully avoided comment on Trump’s notes. He expressed confidence in the alliance’s continued strength.

Trump’s second term plans for US forces were made long ago, during his first presidential experiment. In his memoir, former US president John Bolton provided detailed accounts of” Trump’s persistent desire to withdraw US military assets from the Korean Peninsula” along with details about the former president’s unquenched desire and steadfast belief that he could reach a grand peace agreement with Kim Jong Un.

In South Korea, Bolton wrote after taking office that” I feared Trump’s ultimate threat – withdrawing our troops from any country without paying what he thought was an adequate amount” was true.

Mark Esper, the former head of Trump’s defense department, details his numerous, albeit unsuccessful, attempts to thwart his troop withdrawal. As he wrote:
When Trump mentioned the need to pull all US forces out of Korea,” I became very uneasy,” Esper wrote.

The former defense secretary described how he and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested that Trump make that a top priority during his second term.

” This placated him”, Esper wrote. ” Trump responded with’ Yeah, yeah, second term,’ as a Cheshire Cat smile came across his face”.

Eldridge Colby, a former top official in the Trump defense, has been conducting interviews to demonstrate that this game plan is still in place.

In an interview that was released on May 7, Colby claimed that confronting China was a priority for the US and that South Korea was primarily responsible for resolving North Korea’s issues.

Elbridge Colby. Photo: Screenshot / Facebook

Because we do n’t have a military that can fight North Korea and then be ready to fight China, Colby said,” South Korea is going to have to take primary, essentially overwhelming responsibility for its own self-defense against North Korea.”

” North Korea is not a primary threat to the US, in fact, in my opinion. It would not be wise to simply deal with North Korea and lose several American cities. That’s a different calculation for South Korea” .&nbsp,

Colby, echoing remarks made previously by Trump, indicated that the US should accept, if not support, the nuclear option for South Korea, especially since the US would no longer offer its nuclear umbrella.

” It would be self-defeating and foolish for us to not provide South Korea with a viable defense umbrella and then threaten to sanction it when it decides with us to take measures to provide for security in the face of a massive nuclear buildup by North Korea and China,” he told Yonhap.

If Trump implements his plans, what will South Korea do? The solution is now contained in a significant study that the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington just released.

The study, which is titled” Breaking Bad: South Korea’s Nuclear Option,” was written by a former national security official and eminently regarded Korean expert Victor Cha and was based on a thorough poll of more than 1, 000 strategic elites in South Korea conducted between January and March of this year.

On the positive side of things, the poll disproves the somewhat cliched notion that more than two-thirds of Koreans favor the nuclear option, which is supported by flawed polling.

As the study shows, those polls ask a simple question, yes or no, about support for the nuclear option. If a path like that would put the US and South Korea at risk, the polls never ask if Koreans would agree to it.

Cha’s poll goes further with elites who are more knowledgeable about the effects of nuclear war, finding that two-thirds of respondents do not support nuclear war, primarily because of the potential international outcry and harm to the US alliance. The opposition to the nuclear option is non-partisan and is supported by both conservative and progressive elites.

However, the poll asked elites how they would respond to a return to the America First principle, which the US would denigrate and decouple, specifically by withdrawing American ground troops.

In that situation, more than half of those in favor of the non-nuclear option now back the development of nuclear weapons. By a two-to-one margin, they would favor an independent nuclear arsenal over the option of transferring nuclear weapons to the US.

” Any way you look at it, if Trump wins and he is decoupling, you are going to get this huge shift in elite opinion to go nuclear, and a public already in that camp”, Cha told this writer. ” It means it could happen very quickly. You would n’t have to have a national discussion and build public opinion”.

There is a historical analogy to the present day. The South Korean government of Park Chung-hee set up a secret program to develop nuclear weapons in the early 1970s in response to the US withdrawing one of its two infantry divisions from South Korea and its defeat in the Vietnam War.

President Gerald R. Ford and South Korean” President for Life” Park Chung-hee at the ceremony where Ford was greeted in Seoul on November 22, 1974. Before Ford’s visit, US intelligence had been learning about South Korea’s secret nuclear program. Photo: Gerald R Ford Library

Although policymakers in Washington initially questioned how serious it might be, it was discovered by American intelligence. In the end, only tough American pressure, including blocking the sale of French and Canadian nuclear technology, halted the program.

What would the nuclear transition of South Korea mean for Japan? Every Japanese foreign policy official I spoke to vehemently opposed the notion that Japan would or could develop nuclear weapons in response to Trump’s resumption of power.

The nuclear option was viewed by a senior Yomiuri Shimbun official as being both politically impossible and contrary to postwar Japanese policy.

When asked how Japan might respond if South Korea went down that path, though, that conviction weakened. ” If South Korea has nuclear weapons, Japan will surely have them”, the prime minister’s advisor, who had recently returned from a visit to Korea, told me.

Another senior foreign policy maker, who has served as an advisor to both Abe and Kishida, as well as to the Democratic Party of Japan, went even further. Japan, he told me in a private conversation, should develop nuclear weapons in a joint program with South Korea.

Given the two countries ‘ history, that is a radical idea, if not a politically impossible option. However, as he pointed out, it does have both strategic and technical logic. In a second Trump administration, both Japan and South Korea will face even more immediate threats from China, North Korea, and Russia, and they will no longer be able to rely on the US for extended deterrence.

Technically, while South Korea can move more quickly politically, Japan already has the fissile material in its H-2 and H-3 rockets in storage, including a potential long-range delivery system from the reprocessed spent fuel.

The former senior Foreign Ministry official said,” We have to face the utter reality of who is in charge of the US.” ” We cannot change that”.