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US-NKorea crisis tests Cold War's nuclear deterrence doctrine
By Michel MOUTOT
Paris (AFP) Aug 14, 2017

Guam leader backs 'punch in the nose' for Pyongyang
Hagatna, Guam (AFP) Aug 14, 2017 - Guam's leader said Monday that "sometimes a bully can only be stopped with a punch in the nose", in a spirited defence of President Donald Trump's rhetoric against North Korea which has the island in its crosshairs.

While Trump's critics accuse him of inflaming tensions with Pyongyang, Guam governor Eddie Calvo said he was grateful the US leader was taking a strong stance against North Korean threats to his Pacific homeland.

"Everyone who grew up in the schoolyard in elementary school, we understand a bully," Calvo told AFP.

"(North Korean leader) Kim Jong-Un is a bully with some very strong weapons... a bully has to be countered very strongly."

Calvo, a Republican, said Trump was being unfairly criticised over his handling of the North Korea crisis, which escalated when Pyongyang announced plans to launch missiles toward Guam in a "crucial warning".

He said North Korea had threatened Guam -- a US territory which hosts two large military bases and is home to more than 6,000 military personnel -- at least three times since 2013.

Trump has responded by threatening "fire and fury", warning last week that the US military was "locked and loaded" to respond to any aggression.

"President Trump is not your conventional elected leader, what he says and how he says it is a lot different from what was said by previous presidents," Calvo said.

But he pointed out previous presidents had also used strong words to warn off Pyongyang, including Barack Obama who said last year that "we could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals".

"One president (Obama) said it one way, cool and calmly with a period... the other said fire and fury with an exclamation point, but it still leads to the same message," Calvo said.

He rejected suggestions that Trump and the North Korean dictator were as bad as each other when it came to the sabre-rattling playing out in the western Pacific.

"Well there's only one guy that has vaporised into a red mist his uncle or a general because he fell asleep in a meeting with an anti-aircraft gun, that's Kim Jong-Un," he said.

"There's only one guy that's killed his brother with one of the most toxic nerve agents ever created, that's Kim Jong-Un."

- 'Safe place to visit' -

Some regional players such as China have urged Trump to tone down his rhetoric but Calvo called on them to do more to contain Pyongyang, saying "no one wants to see a war".

"It's not only in the interests of America and its allies, but also China and Russia to see this fellow does not continue in his effort towards nuclearisation or longer-range missiles," he said.

"You're allowed to voice those opinions without going to prison, whether you're for the military or against it, unlike North Korea," he said. He acknowledged there were "varying opinions" among Guam's 160,000 residents about the huge US military presence on the island but insisted the majority of inhabitants backed it.

Calvo also dismissed criticism of the US-operated THAAD weapons system, which has been deployed in Guam and is capable of destroying intermediate-range missiles in the final phase of flight.

"It's meant not to shoot people, it's meant to shoot at missiles that kill people," he said.

Calvo said he did not expect the crisis would have a major impact on the island's tourism industry, which draws more than 1.5 million tourists a year.

"Guam's a safe place to go to. Even though all this stuff is going on in the airwaves there has been no added threat level," he said.

"I'm welcoming all the people of the world to come visit Guam, it's a beautiful place."

The doctrine of nuclear deterrence, put to the test in the standoff between Washington and Pyongyang, dates to the Cold War when the world's two superpowers seemed hellbent on "mutually assured destruction".

The arms race between United States and the then Soviet Union saw a proliferation of nuclear warheads as well as their vectors -- missiles, planes and submarines.

On the eve of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, the Soviet arsenal boasted some 37,000 warheads, compared with nearly 22,000 warheads in the United States, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS).

Today, thanks to a series of multi-lateral and bilateral treaties, those numbers have dropped to around 7,000 and 4,480 respectively -- still more than enough to assure nuclear suicide for both sides.

"The nuclear weapon, invented 70 years ago, has shown itself to be an effective means of preventing war since there has been no conflict between major powers since then," said researcher Bruno Tertrais of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research.

"There has never been open conflict between nuclear powers and no country with nuclear weapons has ever been invaded," he added in a report.

Similarly, "no country protected by the nuclear umbrella has ever suffered a massive military attack," he wrote, referring to NATO's 29 member states.

But critics of the deterrence doctrine reject these arguments, saying it is a theory that cannot be tested.

Moreover, they argue that the interdependence of the world's economies and the influence of international institutions have been the overriding guarantors of peace between the big powers since World War II.

- Two hair-raising tests -

The policy has faced two serious tests -- the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and a hair-trigger confrontation between India and Pakistan 40 years later.

In 1962, at the height of the Cold War, an American spy plane detected Soviet medium-range ballistic missile installations on the territory of Soviet ally Cuba just miles off the Florida coast.

The Soviet move followed the deployment of American ballistic missiles in Italy and Turkey.

The US president John F. Kennedy responded with a military blockade of Cuba and placed US strategic forces on maximum alert dubbed DEFCON 2, the level preceding full-out nuclear war.

B-52 bombers were on continuous airborne patrol and dozens of inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were on ready alert.

Soviet ships laden with nuclear missiles turned back in exchange for a secret agreement by Washington to remove its missiles from Turkey.

Washington also promised not to invade Cuba.

The crisis prompted the BAS to move its "Doomsday Clock" to two minutes before midnight, the closest the world has ever been to global nuclear catastrophe in its estimation.

Four decades later India and Pakistan came to the brink of nuclear war as their decades-old dispute over Kashmir reached fever pitch, with nearly a million soldiers massed on either side of the territory's disputed border.

Both became a nuclear power in 1998.

After Pakistan's then president Pervez Musharraf said he was prepared to resort to nuclear weapons against India, India's defence minister told the International Herald Tribune that "he should realise that India can survive a nuclear attack, but Pakistan cannot."

The two sides began a series of tit-for-tat missile tests before agreeing, under US pressure, to de-escalate tensions.

They reached a ceasefire in November 2003 and started a dialogue the following January.

International relations expert Daniel Vernet, former editor-in-chief of the influential French daily Le Monde, said the crisis involving North Korea illustrates the dangers of nuclear proliferation.

"Dissuasion worked as long as there were few actors and they were considered rational," he said in a recent op-ed. "Their proliferation increases the possibility for misunderstandings, false interpretations of another's intentions, or unbalanced judgement in autocratic regimes."

The BAS set its Doomsday Clock to two and a half minutes to midnight in January this year partly as a result of a Trump's "comments over North Korea, Russia and nuclear weapons."

Nagasaki mayor pleads for end to nuclear threat on bomb anniversary
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 9, 2017
Nagasaki must be the last place to suffer an atomic bombing, its mayor said Wednesday, marking 72 years since the devastating American nuclear attack on the Japanese city with a passionate call for denuclearisation. The anniversary comes as tensions over North Korea's rogue weapons programme and increasingly bellicose rhetoric from United States president Donald Trump rattle the region and p ... read more

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