A ‘Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion’ in North Korea
WASHINGTON — All the elements of the North Korean nuclear crisis — the relentless drive by Kim Jong Un to assemble an arsenal, the propaganda and deception swirling around his progress, the hints of a covert war by the United States to undermine the effort, rather than be forced into open confrontation — were on vivid display this weekend.
华盛顿——周末期间，朝鲜核危机中的所有要素都得到了清晰生动的展示：金正恩(Kim Jong Un)对建起核武库的不懈追求，以及围绕这一进程的各种宣传与欺骗；为了破坏他的努力，美国暗示发起秘密战争，而不是被迫进入公开对抗。
There was the parade in Pyongyang’s main square, with wave after wave of missiles atop mobile launchers, intended to convey a sense that Kim’s program is unstoppable. Then came another embarrassing setback, a missile test that failed seconds after liftoff, the same pattern seen in a surprising number of launches since President Barack Obama ordered stepped-up cyber- and electronic-warfare attacks in early 2014. Finally, there was the test that did not happen, at least yet — a sixth nuclear explosion. It is primed and ready to go, satellite images show.
What is playing out, said Robert Litwak of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who tracks this potentially deadly interplay, is “the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion.” But the slow-motion part appears to be speeding up, as President Donald Trump and his aides have made it clear that the United States will no longer tolerate the incremental advances that have moved Kim so close to his goals.
伍德罗·威尔逊国际学者研究中心(Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars)的罗伯特·利特瓦克(Robert Litwak)一直在观察这种性命攸关的相互作用，他认为，目前的局势相当于“慢动作的古巴导弹危机”。但是慢动作的部分似乎正在加速，因为唐纳德·特朗普总统及其助手们已做出明确表示，美国将不再容忍事态的加速发展，令金正恩得以如此接近自己的目标。
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said repeatedly that “our policy of strategic patience has ended,” hardening the U.S. position as Kim makes steady progress toward two primary goals: shrinking a nuclear weapon to a size that can fit atop a long-range missile, and developing a hydrogen bomb, with 1,000 times the power than the Hiroshima-style weapons he has built so far.
While there are dangers in drawing a historical analogy — President John F. Kennedy dealt with the Soviets and Fidel Castro in a perilous 13 days in 1962, while the roots of the Korean crisis go back a quarter-century — one parallel shines through. When national ambitions, personal ego and deadly weapons are all in the mix, the opportunities for miscalculation are many.
虽然援引历史作为类比是有危险的——1962年，约翰·F·肯尼迪(John F. Kennedy)总统在危险的13天时间内应对了苏联和菲德尔·卡斯特罗(Fidel Castro)，而朝鲜危机的根源可以追溯到四分之一个世纪之前——但是，有一个类似之处是贯穿始终的。当民族志向、个人自负与致命武器混合在一起时，做出错误考量的机会有很多。
So far, Trump has played his hand — militarily, at least — as cautiously as his predecessors: A series of Situation Room meetings has come to the predictable conclusion that while the United States can be more aggressive, it should stop just short of confronting the North so frontally that it risks rekindling the Korean War, nearly 64 years after it came to an uneasy armistice.
Still, the standoff has grown only more volatile. It pits a new president’s vow never to allow North Korea to put U.S. cities at risk — “It won’t happen!” he said on Twitter on Jan. 2 — against a young, insecure North Korean leader who sees that capability as his only guarantee of survival.
Trump is clearly new to this kind of dynamic, as he implicitly acknowledged when he volunteered that Xi Jinping, China’s president, had given him what amounted to a compressed seminar in Chinese-North Korean relations. He emerged surprised that Beijing did not have the kind of absolute control over its impoverished neighbor that he insisted it did last year.
“After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” he said. “It’s not what you would think.”
Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, gave voice to the difficult balancing act on North Korea on Sunday. McMaster, himself a military historian, said on ABC’s “This Week” that while the president had not ruled out any option, it was time for the United States “to take action, short of armed conflict, so we can avoid the worst” in dealing with “this unpredictable regime.” Translation: Pre-emptive strikes are off the table, at least for now.
特朗普的国家安全顾问，陆军中将H·R·麦克马斯特(H.R. McMaster)于周日谈到了朝鲜问题上困难的平衡。麦克马斯特本人是一名军事历史学家，他在ABC电视台的“本周”(This Week)节目上表示，虽然总统没有排除任何选择，但现在美国在处理“这个不可预测的政权”时，理应“采取除武装冲突之外的行动，这样我们就可以避免最坏的局面”。换言之：至少现在还不考虑先发制人的打击。
The fact that Kim did not conduct a nuclear test over the weekend, timed to the anniversary of the birth of his grandfather, the founder of the country and its nuclear program, may indicate that Xi has given him pause. In the White House’s telling, Xi is responding to pressure by Trump to threaten a cutoff of the North’s financial links and energy supplies — its twin lifelines as a state.
The North is trying to create the sense that it is too late for any such defanging — that it has reached a tipping point in its nuclear push. That is why Kim stood for hours as so many missiles rolled by Saturday, carried on portable launch vehicles that can be hidden in hundreds of tunnels bored into North Korean mountains.
But Kim’s otherwise triumphant day took an embarrassing turn when the missile test failed. North Korea used to be pretty successful at launching missiles, so much so that its missiles were sold around the world. Then its launches started failing, suggesting the presence of a hidden Washington hand.
Its big setbacks have revolved around the most threatening missile it has so far flight-tested, known as the Musudan. Last year, it had a failure rate of 88 percent. Kim was reported to have ordered an investigation into the possibility of foreign sabotage, and the missile has remained unseen since.
Asked on Fox News on Sunday whether the United States had played any role in the latest missile failure, K.T. McFarland, McMaster’s departing deputy, said, “You know we can’t talk about that.” Most likely, no one knows for sure, but the ambiguity feeds North Korea’s paranoia, intelligence experts say.
周日，福克斯新闻(Fox News)问麦克马斯特已离职的副手K·T·麦克法兰德(K.T. McFarland)，在朝鲜最新的导弹试射失败中，美国是否发挥了作用，后者表示，“你知道我们不能说这个话题。”很可能没有人确切地知道这个答案，不过，情报专家们说，这种含糊性会加剧朝鲜的多疑。
But such programs buy time; they are not solutions. Equally worrisome to Washington officials and private analysts is the North’s steady progress over a decade in developing nuclear warheads that are small enough to fit atop long-range missiles. By definition, the atomic work appears to be far less open to prying eyes and foreign sabotage. The explosive nuclear tests take place in tunnels dug deep beneath a rugged mountain.
“They’ve done five tests in 10 years,” said Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who once directed the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, a birthplace of the atomic bomb. “You can learn a lot in that time.”
“他们在10年内完成了5次试验，”斯坦福大学(Stanford University)教授西格夫里·S·赫克(Siegfried S. Hecker)说。他曾是原子弹诞生地新墨西哥州洛斯阿拉莫斯武器实验室的主任。“在这么长时间里，你可以学到很多东西。”
Tempting as the analogies to Cuba may be, Kim is probably thinking of another nuclear negotiation — with Libya, in 2003. Its leader, Moammar Gadhafi, agreed to give up his nascent nuclear program in return for promises from the West of economic integration and acceptance. It never really happened, and as soon as Libya’s populace turned against the dictator during the Arab Spring, the United States and its European and Arab allies drove him from power. Ultimately, he was pulled out of a ditch and shot.
Periodically, the North Koreans write about that experience, noting what a sap Gadhafi was to give up the nuclear program that might have saved him. Kim, it appears, is not planning to make the same mistake.