Fear in the news has heightened thanks to the latest news that North Korea has miniaturized a nuclear weapon. Such a revelation has caused an exchange between president Trump and Kim Jong Un – and sensationalist media sources are humming over it. Trump threatened “fire and fury” if North Korea tried anything. Kim then responded that he would consider bombing Guam.
It must be made clear that an offensive strike by the North Koreans makes no sense for them to pursue. There is no clear sign that Kim is irrational, so he likely has his own self-preservation in mind. Therefore any attempt at a nuclear strike would be nonsensical and would lead to his immediate demise. What appears to be going on is that Kim is calling out for attention as he seeks to maintain power in the face of surrounding international consternation from the international community and their Chinese allies. He is in no position to initiate a war, so such a predicament will likely not occur.
Sucking the United States in as a means to gain some kind of appeasement seems to be Kim’s main goal. He likely wants a secret deal to be made where he remains in power and receives aid and food for his desperate population. But the United States do not seem concerned with entertaining such an arrangement. Since the Trump administrations firm stance toward the rogue state shifted away from “strategic patience,” Kim has become more belligerent.
The media is insinuating that Trump is to blame for this (unsurprisingly), but in reality this situation is the result of years of appeasement and shifting sanctions. After the placing of nuclear sanctions on North Korea in the eighties under Reagan, the Clinton administration decided to step in a different direction. Clinton signed an agreement to get rid of the countries old reactors in exchange for aid and the building of new reactors. Bill Clinton assured everyone that this deal would make the world safer, insinuating that the deal prevented the North from constructing nuclear weapons. North Korea predictably violated the deal and by 2003 they were announcing that they had the bomb. This was a claim which was largely ignored by the Bush administration. Then between the periods of 2005 and 2012, both Bush and Obama continually gave aid as an appeasement strategy. Finally, between 2015 and 2017, the regime has enacted a series of nuclear tests which have been met with worry by onlookers. To blame Trump for this, despite a prior elongated period of mismanagement through constant aide and direct armament, is ridiculous and unfair. Anyone who says otherwise is lying or knows nothing about foreign policy and recent history.
This prior period of strategic patience and appeasement clearly has not worked and has made the situation far worse. Now, Trump is taking a new direct approach which stands firm and no longer abides by appeasement. The Trump administration is making it clear that Kim can no longer continue this kind of behavior and constantly get his way. Undoubtedly, Kim is crying a foul because he knows the aid from the US is no longer coming, and international sanctions will exasperate his desperate situation. What he is currently doing is nothing but transparent saber rattling.
Trump’s statement regarding fire and furry, although seemingly direct, was vague. He never alluded to the use of nuclear weapons, but more generally toward conventional military action. The statements could be perceived as a indirect message to China regarding the United States’ intention regarding the situation. China has talked a big game in regard to the the subduing of the North, but nothing has come of it. In fact, North Korea continues to be belligerent, likely at the behest of China. Trump’s militaristic stance on the issue is an indication to the Chinese that the United States will not back down in a military showdown. It is a projection of strength which is necessary to maintain the upper hand.
China has not complied with the Trump administration’s desire for them to keep Kim under control. The media does not seem to notice this. China may be using the rogue state as a wedge (as they have done in the past) to try to sucker Trump into doing something stupid or be made a fool of. It is important to note that the communist Chinese still very much see Trump as a threat to their interests and trajectory as the next major super power in the world – despite a successful meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping. It is worth noting that China has halted North Korean exports, but it would be foolish to assume that the Chinese do not covertly have influence in the regimes general behavior.
Whatever the cause of Kim’s erratic outburts, international attention is fixated on him rather than on another east-Asian conflict with the potential for military provocation – the escalating Sino-Indian conflict in Bhutan. This may be to China’s benefit, as they use North Korea as a distraction before or if things get more serious with India. A standoff occurred as recently as June when the Indian troops halted the construction of a road by the Chinese military. China claimed the action was a direct violation of their territory and was in contraction to international law. China is now threatening imminent war if the Indian troops do not vacate. China is currently preparing for a small scale military operation in the upcoming weeks, and claims that if they back down now it will lead to emboldened actions by India in the future. As a response, India claims that China’s aggressive rhetoric proves they are not interested in a peaceful solution. Water is the main commodity at the core of this conflict, as both countries compete without it looking as though things will come to a diplomatic end.
As focus remains on Kim Jong Un, the temerity of the Korean situation is not as dire as the media is suggesting. A lot of coverage is rooted in their bias toward Trump – therefore they are more inclined to make it seem as though a mad man is at the helm with his finger perpetually on the button. Of course, if Trump is as disgustingly narcissistic and self centered as his critics and the press say he is, then he would be inclined to pursue his own self-preservation – as opposed to ending all life on earth over a petty war of words. It is also worth noting that the United States missile defense system is extremely advanced and comprehensive and well ahead of any offensive capabilities that North Korea has. It is likely that this situation will defuse with a diplomatic solution as Kim seeks some sort of compromise as the era of strategic patience by the United States ends.