At its face, it seems like good news: The first high-level talks between the Koreas in more than two years has brought a thaw in relations and a promise to send North Koreans to next month's Pyeongchang Olympics. But as the Wall Street Journal warns, don't mistake the thaw for a melting. Gerald Seib writes that the situation remains "fraught" and reports the US is weighing whether employing a "bloody nose" strategy—responding to a provocation like another missile test with a targeted military strike that would essentially act as a warning of what could come—is possible. Seib says the debate is a fierce one because the risks are clear: The North could respond by engaging its weapons that sit pointed at Seoul, or perhaps try to use a nuclear weapon. More on the situation:
- Echoing that: In a lengthy piece for the Financial Times, Demetri Sevastopulo treads similar ground, writing that as the North's weapons capabilities grow, the Pentagon is more seriously weighing its options. Seib describes National Security Adviser HR McMaster as getting more vocal about the importance of considering military action, and Sevastopulo advances that, saying that in a private summer briefing, McMaster's discussion of our various options left some participants with the takeaway that the US "was more serious about military action than they had thought." He too reports the "bloody nose" option is being kicked around.
- What would we bloody? Seib speaks with a former top CIA analyst who gives hypotheticals: There's the more obvious, like hitting a component of the missile program or even a missile itself, but the US could also consider striking an unaffiliated military facility or one of Kim Jong Un's homes. But one skeptic tells Seib it's doubtful this could happen without extreme collateral damage, predicting casualties on the Korean peninsula could number in the millions.
- Entering its tunnels? NPR reports military training is underway that's designed to prepare our troops for a situation more involved than a targeted airstrike. Officials say the Army is ramping up its ability to wage tunnel warfare in response to the thousands of tunnels that sit below North Korea. Thousands more soldiers (said to be from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions) are reportedly being trained in the specifics of fighting in such a situation, and stocks of tunnel-related gear, like night-vision goggles and bolt cutters, are being increased.
- Fighting words: The meeting between the Koreas may have brought conciliatory words, but that doesn't extend to the US. Yonhap reports the newspaper of the North's ruling Workers' Party on Monday wrote the following: "The imperialist forces, led by the United States, are violently infringing upon other countries' sovereignty and slaughtering peaceful residents." The article went on to call President Trump "a premium war dealer who destroys the world peace."
- About that meeting: In a Monday opinion piece for Fox News, Harry Kazianis sees the talks between the North and South as a "ruse." His thinking: As whispers are growing about the US seriously considering a military option, "Pyongyang knew it needed to dial down the temperature or potentially face armed conflict as early as the spring. So, trying to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul by negotiating with his fellow Koreans to change the narrative on the peninsula from confrontation to possible cooperation—and kill any talk of war from Washington—makes sound strategic sense for Kim Jong Un."
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