2 badly behaving boys playing with nuclear toys
North Korea’s Dear Leader Kim Jong Un has done everything within his demented mind to provoke the United States with threats of a nuclear attack.
Meanwhile, over the past two presidential administrations America’s response to Un and his predecessor’s hijinks has been timid and ill-effective. Our current National Security Advisor, General H. R. McMaster quoting former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, calls the USA’s past policies concerning The Democratic Republic of Korea’s (DPRK, or North Korea) actions as being “provocation then procrastination.”
This cycle of innocuous responses from the US seems to be broken now with the recent comments of our 45th President Donald J. Trump.
The Donald’s utterances lately in reaction to threats of missile launches toward the United States territory of Guam were radical, reckless, and foreboding. However, they were not nebulous. Perhaps more accurately, it can be said that both leaders Trump and Un are unpredictable, impetuous, and intemperate. And frighteningly, both have a massive military arsenal at their disposal.
The history of the Korean peninsula is in many ways a tragic one. Where the remnants of the post World War II Cold War era malinger today in the divisiveness between the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea).
Whereas, the United States realized a peace dividend from the demise of the Soviet Union which was then unfortunately replaced with a global battle against Islamic terrorism. Lately, the ratcheting up of potential hostilities between the DPRK and the ROK and its ally the United States harkens one back to the pensive days of the Missiles of October in 1962. Then the US and USSR were on the brink of mutual destruction over missile silos being built in Cuba. Former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated that the present conflict has scary similarities to the missile crisis of 1962.
How much the North Koreans press their agenda and how our government reacts will determine whether or not a tragedy can be avoided through adroit diplomacy. This is the time for caution, skill, and controlled messages from the White House. This is also the time for careful coordination with China, Japan, South Korea, and other key nations. Then if all else fails, our military supremacy will undoubtedly prevail. Sadly, the possible loss of life and treasure will be too high a price to pay. Yet, if the Korean nuclear problem is not resolved there may be no alternative other than military interaction.
Korea’s history is one of division not unification. In ancient times, there were three kingdoms on the Korean Peninsula which warred with each other for centuries. In 1910, Imperial Japan annexed Korea and attempted to acculturate Korean citizens to become Japanese in paradigm. After the defeat of the Japan and their fellow Axis powers in 1945, Korea was split in half at the 38th Parallel. The Soviet Union held influence over the northern part and the United States held sway over the southern part. This uneasy division erupted into the Korean War that occurred from 1950 and 1953. Considered a stalemate, the hostilities ended with a cease-fire but no formalized peace treaty was ever forged. Hence, the two Koreas have been separated by a Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). North of the DMZ sits a 1.2 million man army, while south of the DMZ is a 650 thousand man military and 28 thousand American military men and women. Although the North Koreans have the highest per capita amount of serving military of any country in the world, many of their conventional weapons are antiquated. The ROK have a state of the art military subsidized by the United States.
Unfortunately, the North Koreans have been nuclear capable for about ten years. The US has been aware that this tool was their goal for over three decades, yet prior administrations made bold statements and participated in international restrictions only. Previous presidents were reluctant to rattle China by directly confronting North Korea, which they are inexorably intertwined with.
Presently, the DPRK has apparently been successful at miniaturizing nuclear warheads. So, these weapons can now be installed atop Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), which may be able to reach America’s west coast or further east. Kim Jong-Un is incrementally threatening the US by suggesting they might aim their missiles on or near the United States territory of Guam.
Recently, at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in the Philippines, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi voiced his support of the UN Security Council export sanctions on the DPRK. He went further to suggest that Un would make a “smart decision” if the DPRK stopped conducting missile launches and nuclear tests. This statement was a hopeful surprise from a Chinese official regarding the potential conflict. Former US Chairman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen commented that solutions to the present crisis must go through Beijing. Since the majority of the DPRK’s trade is with China, they seem to be the only country that might be able to contain the Wacky Weeble of Pyongyang (Un).
Kim Jong Un apparently believes that the West wants immediate regime change in North Korea. His speeches often refer to what he perceives as the constant negative attention that the US has toward the DPRK. In reality, if he stopped his stunts and nuclear aggression, and declared no intention to move against our ally the ROK, we would not care less about the crazy pip squeak of Pyonyang. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stated “the United States does not seek regime change or a rapid reunification of the two Koreas.”
Still the North Koreans tested two “Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missiles” in July. These could potentially reach as far east as Chicago, Illinois. Thus, the United States lead the non-combative effort to secure UN sanctions that included a ban on coal exports which represents a loss of revenue to the DPRK of over a billion dollars annually. On the contrary to the USA’s intention, the DPRK did not agree to relent in regard to its missiles. Instead, a North Korean government spokesman stated that the sanctions were “a violent infringement of its sovereignty’ and a “heinous US plot to isolate and stifle” their country.
Furthermore, the DPRK vowed to bolster its nuclear arsenal and gain revenge of a thousand fold against the United States.
Undoubtedly, critical mass seems to have been reached in this potential conflict, which may eventually lead to a disproportionate military response. This is where the present feels like the past. There is a growing dire gloom reminiscent of the Missiles of October. The difference between now and then is that Un is not a rational actor. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and President John Kennedy knew the global consequences of escalation. No one is sure whether Kim Jong Un is insane or simply idiosyncratic. He may be sociopathic toward the possible annihilation of neighboring countries in a nuclear confrontation.
Similarly, virtually everyone was shocked at President Trump’s inflammatory choice of language regarding the DPRK’s actions. Trump threatened North Korea “with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
At a time when cautiousness is required, so our nation does not telegraph what a possible military response might be Trump displayed his personal need to prove his engorged sense of self. Instead of being measured and exacting, Trump debased himself to the same childish level as the rambling runt of North Korea. Senators John Mc Cain, Lindsey Graham, Dianne Feinstein, and Ben Cardin along with many Congresspersons from both parties described Trump’s words as bombastic, unhinged, and outright dangerous.
Trump and Un are similar in a couple of fear-striking ways. They are both totally self-involved and they are both recklessly extemporaneous. Further, they both care little about the consequences of their actions providing they lionize themselves in whatever they do. If only Un had the practicality of Khrushchev and Trump had the deftness of Kennedy, the resolution of this crisis would be a whole lot more probable.