Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Diplomatic talks on Korean peninsula

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-Gyon (R) shakes hands with the head of the North Korean delegation Ri Son-Gwon (L) after their meeting in the Demilitarized Zone on Jan. 9, 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea. (Photo: Korea Pool/Getty Images)

Progress Between North and South Korea Marred by Reports of Trump Considering "Bloody Nose" Bombings

In spite of progress on the Korean peninsula, there's reportedly war in the White House over whether to launch a "limited" attack

Jessica Corbett

Following diplomatic talks between North and South Korea aimed at easing tensions over military drills and nuclear weapons, the North has agreed to send a contingent of athletes and high ranking officials to the Olympic Games in PyeongChang next month, even as the Trump administration is reportedly considering launching a limited attack on a North Korean facility in what's been dubbed a "bloody nose" strike.

Tuesday's talks—the first in over two years—come in response to a overture by North Korea leader Kim Jong Un amid global concerns over his country's nuclear weapons program. As Korean diplomats meet at a village on the nations' militarized border to discuss the Olympics—including the proposal that both countries march together during opening and closing ceremonies—and family reunification, with the hope of working toward the nuclear issue, the Wall Street Journal reports, "U.S. officials are quietly debating whether it's possible to mount a limited military strike against North Korean sites without igniting an all-out war on the Korean Peninsula."

The Journal's Washington bureau chief, Gerald F. Seib, details what he calls the "enormously risky idea" that U.S. war hawks within the Trump administration are supposedly weighing:

The idea is known as the "bloody nose" strategy: React to some nuclear or missile test with a targeted strike against a North Korean facility to bloody Pyongyang's nose and illustrate the high price the regime could pay for its behavior. The hope would be to make that point without inciting a full-bore reprisal by North Korea.

It's an enormously risky idea, and there is a debate among Trump administration officials about whether it is feasible. North Koreans have a vast array of artillery tubes pointed across the demilitarized zone at Seoul, the capital of South Korea, with which they could inflict thousands of casualties within minutes if they choose to unleash an all-out barrage.

Now, that danger is coupled with the risk that the North Koreans could attempt to use a nuclear weapon if they choose to escalate in retaliation against even a single strike.

Officials told Seib that within the Trump administration, the president is the "wild card," as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis push for a diplomatic effort to convince North Korea to denuclearize, while national security adviser H.R. McMaster "is arguing more vocally, publicly and privately, that military options need to be considered."

As the administration's warring factions lobby for the support of a president who has repeatedly attacked the diplomatic route and is inclined to possibly provoke nuclear war with fiery tweets aimed at Kim, the open question remains whether diplomatic talks will continue beyond the Olympics to address the issues critical to Seoul, namely the process of family reunification and lessening regional hostility.

Ultimately, Seib notes, "the diplomatic move needed to really start dialing back tensions would be conversations between North Korea and the U.S," and unfortuantely, "that possibility seems stuck in a long-distance dance between Pyongyang and Washington, with each side making opening bids the other finds unacceptable."

After the Journal story broke, politicians as well as international affairs and national security experts from across the political spectrum raised alarms about the potential consequences of a "bloody nose" strike:


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Turn Off the Tap on Plastic,' UN Chief Declares Amid Debate Over New Global Treaty

"Plastics are fossil fuels in another form," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, "and pose a serious threat to human rights, the climate, and biodiversity."

Kenny Stancil ·


EPA Urged to 'Finish the Job' After Latest Move to Protect Bristol Bay From Pebble Mine

"Local residents, scientists, and the broader public all agree that this is quite simply a bad place for a mine, and it is past time for the EPA to take Pebble off the table permanently," said one activist in Alaska.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Zero Tolerance for Corruption': Grijalva, Porter Demand Answers on Alleged Trump Pardon Bribery Scheme

The Democrats believe a real estate developer donated to a Trump-aligned super PAC in exchange for the pardons of two other men.

Julia Conley ·


Millions of Americans Lack Adequate Health Coverage, But the Pentagon Has a New Nuclear Bomber to Flaunt

"This ominous death machine, with its price tag of $750 million a pop, brings huge profits to Northrop Grumman but takes our society one more step down the road of spiritual death," peace activist Medea Benjamin said of the new B-21 Raider.

Brett Wilkins ·


Betrayal of Railway Workers Ignites Working-Class Fury Toward Biden and Democrats

"Politicians are happy to voice platitudes and heap praise upon us for our heroism throughout the pandemic," said one rail leader. "Yet when the steel hits the rail, they back the powerful and wealthy Class 1 rail carriers every time."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo