The following is an excerpt from FRED KAPLAN | February 27, 2018 | Slate.com |
The Winter Games in South Korea are over, so the winter-is-coming games now resume. I refer, of course, to the storm clouds of bluff, brawn, and blind global terror swirling around the faceoff between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un and the stupefyingly real chance that it could spark a nuclear war.
Trump’s latest maneuver came late last week, after he imposed new sanctions on North Korea and on companies that do business with the regime. “If the sanctions don’t work,” he said at a joint news conference with the Australian prime minister on Friday, “we’ll have to go to phase two. Phase two may be a very rough thing. Maybe very, very unfortunate for the world. But hopefully the sanctions will work.”
It might have been useful if Trump had spelled out what it means for the sanctions to “work”—that is, what the North Koreans need to do to avoid the dreaded phase two. Strategic ambiguity is one thing, and sometimes has its place in international discourse; vague threats rarely bear fruit and usually just spawn confusion and aggravate tensions.
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