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Siling Labuyo: 2018: The year of living dangerously

Billionaire Donald Trump made billions by being a cut-throat businessman. If judging from the multiple bankruptcies that Trump went through, one would think that he was not the prolific businessman he purports to be. His tax returns would help explain his wealth but Trump has not released anything to the public. Voters who wanted a businessman for president, a shrewd one I might add, well they got one and he is running his administration like the cut-throat business he knows how. President Donald Trump just unleashed a barrage of tweets aimed at various actors or states of his fancy. Number one on the list was Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea. The Trump tweet was prompted when the 33 y/o North Korean leader said something about his nuclear buttons being on his desk and ready to be fired towards the West, if needed. Trump responded that his button is much bigger and more powerful and that his button works. Sounds like some school kids trying to outdo each other, except the matter is a very serious one especially after North Korea detonated its first hydrogen bomb test last year that got everybody’s attention. First, many of Western analysts miscalculated North Korea’s resolve in pursuing nuclear weapons and did not expect the country to be this far in advance with their nuclear technology. The second miscalculation and probably borne from the fist was that even if North Korea has developed one, it will not be able to reach the American homeland. Many people saw the outcome of previous missile tests exploding up there in earth’s atmosphere or as a dud coming down onto the Sea of Japan, close but not close enough to have Japan’s Self Defense Units convert to an offensive posture. The tests appeared and sounded rudimentary and unsuccessful at best, to neighboring countries who were content on just watching the exercise and assuming a defensive posture, just in case (i.e. warning citizens of possible incoming missile). Well, the last ballistic missile test went so high, ten times past the International Space Station and got the West rattled. Imagine how menacing the thought of a nuclear tipped missile loaded with a hydrogen bomb reaching California! But Trump doesn’t seem to care about that and would rather continue taunting the youthful leader of a pariah state (who has really nothing to lose even with Trump’s threat of erasing the country on the map). Trump is obviously wigging it as he goes along and probably hoping he could bluff the North Korean into giving up his nuclear ambition. That is the cut-throat businessman in him who is only focused on winning and not the consequences of his action. In real state, a failed transaction could only mean wasted paper products and a bruised ego with no real consequences to the rest of the world. It’s all about winning and profit margin. Dealing with North Korea is an entirely different animal because of real life consequences. True that North Korea’s hydrogen bomb may still need some fine tuning but with the current technology in their possession (from the Russians when the former USSR broke up), it is just a matter of time before they figure out the delivery part (the U.S. went through a similar process before perfecting the art). The fact that they detonated a hydrogen bomb so powerful it literally moved a mountain at the site tells me that they are acutely aware of the value of their new discovery. Unlike other nuclear materials tipped on a warhead, hydrogen bomb is much lighter but 1,000 times more powerful than the Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. If anything, Kim Jong-un probably learned something from Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gadhafi’s ignominious end. Both gave up their nuclear materials/ambitions while working/fighting with the U.S. Both were pursued to death by the Americans. Sanctions and all, North Korea is quite confident it holds aces up its sleeves. One ace is South Korea. Jong-un just opened up communications with the South and has publicly stated its intention of sending a delegation to the Olympics being hosted by South Korea. Trump does not like South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s “soft” approach to North Korea. In a shooting war, even conventional, South Korea is bound to lose hundreds of thousands of its people in the initial volley. Deaths from nuclear warhead detonation could bring casualties to millions. Trump hints at launching a “preemptive strike” but North Korea is undeterred because its military armature is already pointed at South Korea and fired at will without much discussion on the other side – it just takes pushing a button that Kim Jong-un was talking about. The Japanese on the other hand know how devastating a nuclear attack could be and Trump’s twitter orgy is not very reassuring. Trump is probably smarting that he was in the company of Kim Jong-un as Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” runner-ups and the “Little Rocket Man” has not buckled under Trump’s histrionics. He is also smarting from the fact that he lavished his praises on Xi Jinping (who was also Time’s runner up) at the APEC only to be stood up at the altar of foreign policy deal making. Trump’s naïve thinking that China will give up on North Korea is wishful thinking. North Korea serves a purpose for China like harassing the U.S. Also, the thought of having all these hungry refugees trooping to China because the U.S. decided to go after Kim Jong-un is not something President Jinping have in mind. So the stalemate continues and ultimately, the U.S. will have to live with Kim and accept a nuclear North Korea or pursue war. Another subject of Trump’s latest twitter attack was the Palestinians. Trump’s beef was the Palestinians’ “no” vote at the United Nations along with 191 other countries who blocked Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as official capital of Israel. Trump would like to stop giving aid to the Palestinian Authority if they don’t go back to the bargaining table. After Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem, the Palestinians practically pulled out from the peace talks citing America’s biased decision and therefore could no longer be considered a peace broker in the Middle East. Much like when Ambassador Nikki Haley’s said at the U.N. before the vote that she will be taking names and will punish those who don’t support the U.S. position. Well, the Palestinians called her and her master’s bluff and voted against it. This time, they are also daring both Haley and Trump to go ahead and stop the aid. The hundreds of millions of dollars that the U.S. contributes apparently go towards maintaining security on the Israeli occupied territory (West Bank and Gaza) and prevent attacks on Israel. Stopping the aid would hurt the Israelis more than the Palestinians and the region will once again be destabilized. Trump has been told about this, I’m sure but he bragged about brokering peace between the two warring states even after his recognition of Jerusalem. So, he is smarting that the Palestinians are putting his credibility on the line. Again, Trump thinks this was just another real estate deal that he could bluff his way through but he is in for some rude awakening. Trump is also picking a fight with the Iranians who basically owns the Hezbollah faction (and along with Hamas) in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and could really make life difficult for Israel and the U.S. The year two thousand and eighteen could be more chaotic than 2017, if Trump is still in office. Abangan!

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