The North Korean threat looks worse everyday. It’s nearly impossible to turn on the news or go online without hearing about this crisis.
Some days it seems as though they’re about to attack us. Other days we’re going to strike them. The next, they’re just a paper tiger.
It’s difficult to know how serious Kim Jong-un is. Should we fear him or ignore him?
One thing is clear however, the North Korean threat has everyone on edge.
For years North Korea has been openly testing missiles while making empty threats against the U.S. and our allies. These tests have increased recently, with the North Koreans successfully testing nuclear bombs and ICBMs.
President Trump has been much more vocal about the rogue regime than his predecessor. He’s also pressured Russia and China to help rein in the North Korean leader.
This weekend, the U.N. Security Council voted to impose new sanctions on North Korea. This includes support from China, Kim Jong-un’s closest ally. China accounts for over 90% of North Korean imports and exports, so their support for the sanctions is crucial to the effectiveness.
Unfortunately, these sanctions do not cut off imports of crude oil from China. This is a major pillar of their relationship, and will still greatly help North Korea.
Additionally, North Korea has successfully used past sanctions in domestic propaganda campaigns. By showing the rest of the world is against them, Kim Jong-un can shore up support from his citizens.
In response to the sanctions, Kim Jong-un promised to “make the U.S. pay by a thousand-fold for all the heinous crimes it commits against the state and people of this country.”
This was coupled with a U.S. intelligence report that said North Korea now has the capability to plant a nuclear warhead on a missile.
President Trump responded harshly yesterday. He announced that North Korea must scale back their tests and aggressive behavior or “face fire and fury like the world has never seen.” This marks a sharp turn from the calmer reactions typically seen from the Obama Administration.
Shortly after, the rogue regime announced they were looking into an attack against Guam, a U.S. territory. This attack, they said, would include the U.S. military base on the island.
Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, attempted to scale back the President’s threats while on his way to Guam. He said President Trump “was sending a strong message to North Korea in language that Kim Jong-un would understand.” He didn’t see the President’s message as a threat of preemptive violence. Instead, he was making it clear that the U.S. would defend itself and its allies.
Kim Jong-un is a terrible leader, but he isn’t as unstable as many believe.
The fear is that once he gets a nuclear weapon capable of hitting the U.S., hew will use it. Most world leaders are deterred by the second-strike capability of the U.S. If anyone attacks us, we could strike back stronger. However, Kim Jong-un is thought to be irrational, and therefore undeterred by the assured destruction.
Kim Jong-un may use propaganda to tell his citizens that he is a god, but he knows better. He has dealt with health problems, and killed people he thought wanted to overthrow him. The “supreme leader” may seem crazy, but he’s rational enough to understand he’s human.
He has two very rational reasons for his actions.
First, the North Korean leader needs the United States to be his enemy. He is distracting his citizens with an international conflict, so they don’t blame him for their terrible living conditions.
Second, he wants to be taken seriously by world leaders. For years the international community has pushed around North Korea. We impose sanctions on them and make movies showing him as a temperamental child. By flaunting his military strength and nuclear capabilities, Kim Jong-un forces the world to treat him as a serious actor.
Next, President Trump’s response shows that he will no longer just accept the North Korean threat. Ignoring Kim Jong-un in the past just made him more aggressive and made him build his nuclear capabilities faster.
The United States should not act preemptively against the rogue regime. If we were to act first, North Korea would surely use their missiles as a response, and claim self-defense. President Trump is simply making it clear that we will defend ourselves and our allies. We are telling Kim Jong-un that anything he can do, we can do better.
Most importantly, he’s speaking Kim Jong-un’s language. The North Koreans care about power, not diplomacy. Since speaking calmly to Kim Jong-un has done nothing, we’re reminding him of our power instead.
The North Korean threat is serious. We should not fear Kim Jong-un, but we must deal with him.