After a high-visibility display of military power aimed at deterring North Korean provocations, the White House is dialing back the aggressive posture amid fears that it could inadvertently trigger an even deeper crisis, according to U.S. officials.
The U.S. is putting a pause to what several officials described as a step-by-step plan the Obama administration approved earlier this year, dubbed "the playbook," that laid out the sequence and publicity plans for U.S. shows of force during annual war games with South Korea. The playbook included well-publicized flights in recent weeks near North Korea by nuclear-capable B-52 and stealth B-2 bombers, as well as advanced F-22 warplanes.
The U.S. stepped back from the plans this week, as U.S. officials began to worry that the North, which has a small nuclear arsenal and an unpredictable new leader, may be more provoked than the U.S. had intended, the officials said.
"The concern was that we were heightening the prospect of misperceptions on the part of the North Koreans, and that that could lead to miscalculations," a senior administration official said.
Is this capitulation?
Is this, in essence, bowing?
If so, then wouldn't Obama be playing right out of his playbook?