While his boss was prancing around threatening “fire and fury…the likes of which this world has never seen before,” the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, has been, calmly and deliberately, discussing the North Korean issue with his Chinese counterpart, Army Gen. Fang Fenghui.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signs the Joint Staff Dialogue Mechanism with his Chinese counterpart Gen. Fang Fenghui following a roundtable discussion at the Ba Yi, Aug. 15, 2017.

Speaking to reporters after his meetings in Beijing and in Seoul, Dunford says that he believes that “the diplomatic and economic pressure campaign aimed at North Korea is making progress and the odds are improving that the nuclear and ballistic missile issues can be solved peacefully.”

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford meeting with Republic of Korea Minister of Defense Song Young-Moo, August 14, 2017, in Seoul, South Korea.

Here is more from a report by Jim Garamone of the DoD News, Defense Media Activity:

There are many hurdles to overcome, but South Korea, Japan, the United States and China all seem to have the same concern about a nuclear-armed North Korea, the chairman said. “I do believe there is unanimity in seeking a diplomatic and an economic solution to the current crisis in North Korea,” Dunford told reporters.

The end state, of course, is a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has developed atomic bombs and may be close to placing them upon intercontinental ballistic missiles that could target U.S. treaty allies South Korea and Japan as well as American targets in the Pacific, and, possibly, the homeland.

Dunford said he believes the U.N. Security Council vote imposing sanctions on Chinese exports was a great first step. “We have a long way to go, but I am encouraged by the strong commitments of all to enforce those sanctions,” the chairman said. “The passage of the sanctions is step one, enforcement of those sanctions are what is most important.

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“I don’t think any of us believe that economic and diplomatic pressure alone … or this campaign will result in denuclearization,” the chairman said. “But what Secretary [of State Rex] Tillerson has articulated is that the diplomatic and economic pressure will cease the testing, cease the development of nuclear programs and set, perhaps, the political conditions for moving forward in the broader issues that affect North and South Korea.”

The United States, South Korea and Japan are approaching the issue as an alliance. The chairman’s first stop before Beijing was in Seoul and his last stop will be in Tokyo. He said he wants to ensure transparency with allies and friends in the region. “I think we’ve had a very transparent exchange with our Chinese interlocutors about North Korea as well,” Dunford said.

The chairman said he is leaving Beijing feeling encouraged. “I began to be encouraged when the United Nations Security Council passed the sanctions resolution,” he said. “That is as forceful a declaration of the international community’s perspective on this issue as we’ve seen.”

Dunford said the response from world capitals has also given him encouragement that there is the will to enforce sanctions.

“I do believe right now — there’s a long way to go — but we are on a path that there is a possibility, and I hope a probability, that we can resolve this peacefully,” he said. “I certainly believe there is a chance.”

The diplomatic and economic pressure is designed to set the political conditions for very difficult complicated long-term issues to be addressed, the chairman said.

There is still a threat from North Korea, Dunford said. Kim Jong Un having ballistic missiles melded with nuclear warheads would be a significant threat to the region and the United States. “That is unacceptable, and that is what President [Donald J.] Trump has said,” the chairman said. “We’re all working toward a peaceful solution. On all counts, that is the best way to approach this. But we [in DoD] get paid to develop military options, and we’ve been in discussion with our president about military options. If the president comes to us with a decision to use military force, we will provide him options.”

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford meets Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People at the conclusion of his visit to Beijing. DoD photo by Jim Garamone

The Chairman will travel next to Tokyo to speak with Japanese officials following his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Lead photo: Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. observes an attack exercise with People’s Liberation Army Gen. Song Puxuan, commander, Northern Theater Command, at a PLA base in Shenyang, China, Aug. 16, 2017.

All photos: DoD

Dorian de Wind, Military Affairs Columnist
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