Van Jackson is an analyst who has special expertise on North Korea and he has written an article on how the North Korean theory of deterrence maps onto the theory of deterrence held by US Secretary of Defense Mattis. Unfortunately, there is evidence that both theories rest heavily on demonstration effects which suggests that in a crisis both sides are inclined to use force to show resolve. Given that in the current situation, both the US and North Korea have amassed a lot of weaponry to shoe resolve, this tendency might be a dangerous way to proceed. We are getting conflicting information about China’s attitude toward the US actions. US President Trump has indicated that China is being very helpful. But the Global Times has an article which suggests that the Chinese are quite nervous about the US military build-up near North Korea. According to the article:
“China strongly opposes actions that violate United Nations Security Council resolutions, Xi said, adding that China hopes the parties concerned will exercise restraint and avoid actions that aggravate tensions on the peninsula, the Xinhua News Agency reported.”
The article also reports that North Korea has ordered an evacuation around the area of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, suggesting that it fears an attack on the site. On another curious note, the Trump administration announced that it will hold a full briefing for the entire Senate on the North Korean situation on Wednesday. According to the Washington Post:
“A senior Trump administration official said the meeting with senators will take place in the auditorium at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the building next to the White House that houses most of the National Security Council. The auditorium will be temporarily turned into a “sensitive compartmented information facility,” or SCIF, which is the term for a room where sensitive national security information can be shared, the official said.”
Obviously, the Trump Administration wishes the briefing to be a “special” event.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute is reporting that the world spent $1.686 trillion on arms in 2016, a 0.4 percent increase from 2015. The report notes that
- World military spending in 2016 accounted for 2.2 per cent of global GDP. Military spending as a share of GDP, was highest in the Middle East (for countries where data is available), with an average of 6.0 per cent of GDP in 2016, while the lowest was in the Americas, with an average of 1.3 per cent of GDP.
- Spending in Africa fell by 1.3 per cent in 2016, a second year of decrease after 11 consecutive years of increases. This was mostly due to spending cuts in oil-exporting countries in sub-Saharan Africa (e.g. Angola and South Sudan).
- In Asia and Oceania, military expenditure rose by 4.6 per cent in 2016. Spending levels are related to the many tensions in the region such as over territorial rights in the South China Sea.
- Military expenditure in Central America and the Caribbean and South America combined decreased by 7.8 per cent to a level not seen since 2007. The fall is largely explained by spending reductions by oil-exporting countries such as Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. Brazil’s spending continued to decline as a result of a worsening economic crisis.
Chart from Forbes