North Korea: Will World War III Kick Off This Week?

Neil Clark writes in RT

A boy looks at a display showing images of missile launches and military exercises in a public square in Pyongyang. Photo Ed Jones/AFP, in Newsweek.

Will World War III kick off this week because of the bellicose actions of a buffoonish leader with a dodgy hair-cut and his sinister nuclear-armed warmongering rogue state?  Or, can Donald Trump and the US be deterred?
Of course, in State Department-friendly Western media, it’s North Korea and its leadership who are routinely portrayed as the nut jobs. But you don’t have to carry a torch for the North Korean government or be a card-carrying member of the Kim Jong-un Appreciation Society to acknowledge that the country’s leadership has actually been behaving very rationally. Because recent history tells us that the best way to deter an attack from the US and its allies is not to disarm, dress up as John Lennon and make statements about how much you desire peace, but to do the exact opposite.

Consider what happened to Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya. Like the DPRK, all three were US ‘target states’. And all three were destroyed and their leaders killed. Do we honestly think these countries would have been attacked had they possessed nukes or missiles that could reach US targets? Of course not.  Detailed analysis of these conflicts shows us that the Empire gets its way through a mixture of bluff followed by the use of military force, but only when it believes the risks are minimal, or non-existent. If it believes the risks are too high, it backs off and starts talking about the need for ‘dialogue’ and ‘diplomacy’.
To understand how the global hegemon acts in the international arena we don’t need to study huge academic textbooks, only remember what happens in the school playground.
In 1999, Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic not only lacked ICBMs, but strong international allies who were prepared to stand by his country in its hour of need. Even though the Russian military were champing at the bit to help their historical Slavic allies in Belgrade, Yeltsin and the ruling elite in Russia were purportedly given financial inducements to stay out. Whether or not that is true, a new IMF loan was conveniently agreed just a week after NATO began its illegal aerial bombing campaign.
The US only expected military action to last a few days before ‘Slobo’ would cave in and accept the Western military alliance’s right to occupy mineral-rich Kosovo and have free unhindered access over the whole of Yugoslavia.
“I don’t see this as a long-term operation. I think this is something that is achievable within a relatively short space of time,”boasted Secretary of State Madeline Albright.
But Slobo and the stoical Serbs did not cave in. As the bombing campaign continued, splits began to emerge in NATO between the hawks, comprised of the US and Britain, and the countries from continental Europe who favored dialogue with Belgrade.
On April 15, 1999, the Guardian reported that “American officials rejected a six-point German peace plan which included a 24-hour bombing pause, a United Nations peacekeeping force and civilian monitors.” It went on to note how British Prime Minister Tony Blair “also gave the plan a polite cold shoulder.”
NATO atrocities, such as the killing of 16 civilians in the bombing of Serbian State Television – a clear war crime – and the bombing of a passenger train and a convoy of Kosovan Albanians, were beginning to turn public opinion against the ‘humanitarian’ operation. With the war not going to plan, it was time once again for the US to make threats. To increase the pressure on Milosevic- the Yugoslav President was indicted as a war criminal, a process I described here.
In addition, hints were made that NATO was planning a ground invasion. President Clinton declared on 18th May 1999 that he “would not take any option off the table.” 
Victor Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin’s envoy, flew to Belgrade to persuade Milosevic to accept NATO’s terms – or face an escalation of the war.
But would there really have been boots on the ground or was it one big bluff? Evidence suggests the latter. NATO’s supreme commander Wesley Clark revealed in his memoirs that the Alliance’s top political leaders had reached no consensus over sending in ground troops. And would NATO have gotten away with intensifying its air campaign? Clark also admitted that by mid-May, NATO “had gone about as far as possible with the air strikes.”
I’m sure that seven years later, as he lay in his prison cell a sick man, denied the proper medical treatment which his heart condition required, Milosevic regretted not saying ‘nyet’ to Chernomyrdin in 1999 and calling Washington’s bluff.
Four years later it was the turn of oil-rich Iraq to be attacked.
Saddam Hussein and his Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz repeatedly told the world’s media that their country possessed no WMDs.
They were accused of lying by western neocons, but the endless war lobby knew the Iraqi leadership was telling the truth. Saddam’s country was attacked not because it possessed weapons of mass destruction, but because it didn’t. With its air defenses severely weakened after years of Allied bombing, and its own air force decimated in the first Gulf War, Iraq was a sitting duck.  Bush and Blair lied about the country being a “threat” – and 1m Iraqis eventually died.
Over in oil-rich Libya, Muammar Gaddafi drew absolutely the wrong conclusions about what had happened to Iraq. Eagerly seeking the end of US sanctions on his country, he foolishly agreed in December 2003 to eliminate his WMDs program. He should have reacted to ‘Shock and Awe’ by building up his arsenal, but instead, falling for the silver-tongued promises of Western leaders who were going to end his country’s isolation, he did the opposite.
George W. Bush hailed his decision as a “wise and sensible choice.”
Tony Blair, for his part, said“This courageous decision by Colonel Gaddafi is an historic one. I applaud it. It will make the region and the world more secure.”
But of course, it didn’t. It only paved the way for the destruction of Gaddafi’s country by the same countries whose leaders had hailed him as ‘wise’ and ‘sensible’ a few years earlier.
Again, I’m sure that eight years later, as Gaddafi lay in his underground hideout, trying to escape capture from US-backed ‘rebels’(who eventually killed him in the most brutal way imaginable), he bitterly regretted his decision to disarm.
Which brings us back to North Korea.
It’s clear that Kim Jong-un has seen what happened to Milosevic, Saddam and Gaddafi and the devastation wreaked on their countries and acted accordingly. North Korea’s strategy is clearly based on the belief, borne out by events described above, that the US is a bully which only attacks the weak. Thus, saber-rattling and generally playing a ‘high line’ is the best way to avoid attack. We must remember too that North Korea lost around 1m people in the Korean War 1950-53, many from an intensive US bombing campaign.

Of course, the neocons in Washington don’t like it when a country stands up to them in this way, which is why the former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who never let his guard down for one moment, got such a terrible press. The Empire seeks to prevent ‘target states’ developing nuclear weapons capabilities as it knows that if they do it won’t be able to threaten them. It’s revealing to note that the strongest supporters of ‘nuclear deterrence’ in the West are also the strongest opponents of countries such as Iran or DPRK acquiring nuclear weapons.
‘We’ need nukes to defend ourselves from attack, but it is deemed totally outrageous if countries in the global south, which ‘we’ threaten on a routine basis, seek to acquire such weapons for the same reason.
To deter a US attack, North Korea, or indeed any other country in the line of fire, has to convince the serial warmongers in Washington that the cost of launching such an assault would be too high. Being ‘nice’ and singing ‘Give Peace a Chance’ won’t cut the mustard. Remember that John Lennon, who wrote and sang that song, lost his life from a gunshot.
While Saddam implored the West, ‘Believe me, I have no WMDs,’ Kim Jong-un has done the exact opposite and talked up his country’s capabilities. However, Kim knows that words alone are not enough; he also needs to demonstrate that North Korean projectiles can be a threat to the US. Hence the announcement on Wednesday that it was ‘carefully considering’ a plan to fire four missiles into the sea off the island of Guam, home to two US bases.
Of course, Pyongyang’s strategy is high risk, especially with such a volatile individual as Donald Trump – who seems desperate to earn neocon approval to avoid a possible impeachment – in The White House.
Recent history though suggests that North Korea, by keeping its fists clenched and continuing to indulge in missile ‘willy-waving’ is doing absolutely the right thing. The big lesson of the last thirty years is surely that deterrence works. If you’re a ‘target state’ and can’t deter the warmongers in Washington, you’re in grave danger. Just ask the ghosts of Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.

The feature photo is from Inside North Korea Fascinating photos everyday life in Newsweek.


co-founding editor of OffGuardian (retired)

Filed under: conflict zones, latest


co-founding editor of OffGuardian (retired)

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As all of you already know, the World War III has been postponed. You need less than 24 hours to disprove one thesis and start peddling another (and I do love your publication). Just wish there was less hasty run to the presses before the dust settles.


The ‘thesis’ you speak of was put forward by one, Neil Clark, an independent observer of current issues and affairs of a geopolitical nature. You may reject or accept his opinions according to your tastes and sources. But Mr. Clark’s views, which I found quite interesting (but, hey, that ‘s just me) was not necessarily the view of OffGuardian; although it might have come close. But there is not, and to the best of my knowledge, never has been, an OffGuardian ‘party line’ which determines the ‘truth’ or falsehood of global events. If they were I certainly wouldn’t be interested in posting. That sort of approach belongs to the MSM; the hive-mind which brooks no opposing interpretations. The fact that you took the trouble to make your views known and the editorial board of OFFG saw fit to publish them would seem to indicate a rather catholic approach to their CIF columns don’t you think?


North Korea’s decision to invest in a nuclear arms program is not only rational in a strategic sense, it makes good economic sense as well. The NK army is mostly made up of conscripts and reservists who would otherwise be engaged in farming, and in growing rice in particular. The rice-sowing season takes place in spring and the harvest takes place in September.
It so happens that the US and South Korea stage their regular military exercises (which include amphibious attacks on beaches) during the … North Korean rice-sowing season and the rice-harvesting season, when all available hands are needed and North Korea can ill afford to take soldiers away from the fields.
Also recent news about North Korea’s mineral wealth has come to notice – could this also be a reason for the US to ratchet up the sabre-rattling?


It seems America’s bluff is being called. China has stated it quite clearly and unequivocally that no regime change is going to happen in North Korea. Attempts by the US to do so will result in the Peoples’ Liberation Army crossing the Yalu river into Korea just as they did in 1950. Over to you Mr Trump.
It has always been my view that most of these American threats, particularly those directed to those states bordering Russia/China, are a bluff. Although the neocons appear crazy, this is just a ruse; it is simply what they want Russia/China to think. The Beltway fraternity know as well as everybody else that no-one wins a nuclear war, and neo-cons vaporise just like the rest of us, or slowly starve in their fall-out shelters. Moreover, given the logistical and political problems involved in a conventional land war against the Eurasian bloc, where all the advantages are with Russia/China, a conflict of this sort is out of the question for the US and its vassals – allies who seem increasingly sceptical about following the master’s instructions, particularly after the Sanctions fiasco. The United States can no longer afford to fight a conventional land war and win. Apart from anything else, it is simply unaffordable.
This is not to say that there will not be continuing provocations and even false-flag incidents. But for now at least the hegemonic project seems to have hit a brick wall.
With regard to Ukraine and Mr Putin. Perhaps he might learn something from the Chinese policy vis-a-vis US/EU/NATO threats.

Norman Pilon

The real confrontation is between China and the U.S.
China has made clear exactly what its intention is: to meet the U.S. head on.
The Americans have either already blinked or will. They can’t win a confrontation with China allied with Russia. The costs will be too high, and the Americans are all about “costs.” I don’t see it happening.

Dead World Walking
Dead World Walking

It would be a kind of karmic justice if Trump triggered WW3. After all, he epitomises the ugliest and most avaricious aspects of capital$chism.
But please think carefully Mr President. Those missiles are gonna make fucking big divots in your golf courses.


Thanks God, North Korea is not Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yugoslavia, etc. It has something very scary nuclear deterrent which all the US-NATO-Israel victims didn’t have.
Trump and its anti-Muslim warmongers will never dare to attack an adversary which poses a nuclear deterrent. Remember, the US and Israel waited to send insurgency into Syria once they had country’s all chemical weapons removed.
There will never be a WWIII in the future unless some Hitler decide to attack Israel.
In April 2013, Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of Zionist advocacy group, the “Task Force on National and Homeland Security”, in an Op-Ed, entitled, “North Korea Today – Iran Tomorrow”, published in Israeli daily Arutz Sheva, blasted Barack Obama administration for not taking North Korean threats seriously.
“Contrary to the Obama administration and the uninformed mass media, developing a nuclear missile warhead is not such an insurmountable technological challenge that it should be used as an excuse to deny the existence of a nuclear missile threat from North Korea. North Korea has been working on nuclear weapons for 19 years, but using modern 21st century technology, with access to copious declassified U.S. materials on nuclear weapons design, and with help from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran and others. We know from our own experience with nuclear weapon designs of a half-century ago that North Korea may well already have warheads that its missiles can deliver against the United States,” wrote Pry.


Whether there is WW3 is up to Trump. China apparently made its position clear via government media just last week; they won’t support N Korea if it attacks first. That lead to headlines “China will stay neutral” but they soon disappeared when the Chinese added that if the US (or S Korea) acted first they would defend the North. Thus the situation is not unlike that in 1950 with China preferring war to seeing the Americans on their border in a united US run Korea. Unfortunately on this occasion the blow hard like McArthur IS the President rather than the cautious Truman. As Trump has unfettered control over nuclear strikes it would be rash to suggest it “won’t happen”. China may feel a show down with the US is inevitable someday soon – as the Americans keep saying and maybe this is as good a time as any to fight it out with a weak Administration and a degree of chaos in America. Who governs the South China Sea is crucial to China. Nuclear exchanges are likely to be very limited with an agreement not to strike each other’s mainland or, probably Australia. S Korea and Japan will suffer most. Will Putin seize the opportunity to settle with Ukraine? That seems unlikely but a nuclear exchange in SE Asia caused by American misjudgement will mean Europeans sleeping uneasily. One day they might even speak up!