By Griffen Smith | USA
“The military might of a country represents its national strength” -Kim Jong Un. For the last two decades, news from the small communist country of North Korea has sounded like an action movie. North Korea, if anybody is unaware, is a tiny nation on the North end of a peninsula it shares with South Korea. It is also in the vicinity of China and Japan, along with the American controlled island of Guam. The North has only had three leaders ever, a hierarchy that is worshipped in the country. There have been countless reports of current leader Kim Jong Un launching bombs into the Pacific ocean, putting the world’s nuclear safety in jeopardy. Even more bizarre are tales of Un’s half-brother getting killed by “assassins,” sent by Kim himself.
Before processing what seems to be utter insanity, looking at the current US views on the Un regime seem to paint an even worse picture. Donald Trump has responded that “fire and fury like the world has never seen” will come Un’s way if he tries to use a nuclear weapon against any nation. All of this rhetoric makes Americans strongly fear North Korea, as a Gallup poll in 2017 shows that over 50 percent of the United States calls them the “greatest immediate threat to the United States”. The survey adds even more factors, citing that almost 70% believe that North Korea is a major enemy of the United States. On the surface, North Korea appears to be an unstable country on the brink of collapse. However, analyzing the details reveals that Kim Jong Un’s dictatorship is making decisions that will keep North Korea around for decades. Yes, the people of North Korea will continue to suffer, but this is not stopping their leaders from carrying on rule. The reason why is because when looking into the cold war as well as the present, countries with nuclear weapons become more stabilized, and the Un regime is no exception to that rule. So though North Korea has humanitarian issues, America needs to start treating the Un regime like a legitimate nation instead of calling them crazy.
The most important part of North Korea’s sovereignty is their nuclear weapons. As nuclear scientist and North Korean nuclear expert Siegfried Hecker explains, all the talk about Kim Jong Un possessing weapons of mass destruction is actually true. In fact, in late 2016 Hecker claims that North Korea has “roughly 20 to 40 kilograms of plutonium and 200 to 450 kilograms of highly enriched uranium,” which is enough to make up to 25 nuclear bombs. These weapons have been tested in recent times, like a test on August 8th, 2017 that sparked harsh criticism from the international community. However, while North Korea has many reasons to possess nuclear weapons, the thing they will never use them for is actual warfare. New York Times writer Mark Lander explained in a November 28th article that North Koreans not only have the ability to shoot missiles at Guam but now the entire US mainland. However, North Korea has not fired any weapons at any countries. What many can infer from this is that actually starting a nuclear war is not an immediate goal of North Korea. Lander even admits that the nuclear test was a “bold act of defiance against president Trump,” simply because the US put Kim Jong Un as a state sponsor of terrorism earlier in the week. So when looking in comparison with the rest of the world, North Korea wants to have active nuclear weapons is so they can use them for leverage to the international community. All current nuclear countries, minus North Korea, are regional or global superpowers. Even nations which stability has been tested, for example, Israel, have had nuclear weapons to back their diplomacy up in the Middle East.
One misconception is that North Korea is too unstable to keep these weapons under wrap. A report from Global News in April of 2017 explains how world leaders like Justin Trudeau are very nervous with the Un regime. Specifically, the Canadian prime minister stated that he is worried by the “irresponsible” and “dangerous” acts of a “rogue regime in North Korea.” North Korea should be watched closely, but there are some clear indicators that show Un’s possession of these weapons will promote stability. This idea is driven by the military doctrine, Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD. The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation brings insight into the history of nuclear safety. The MAD theory was first used during the Cold War. Moreover, it specifically was invented after the seven-day Cuban missile crisis in 1962. It details how both America and Russia have the nuclear capability to destroy each other, or at least large portions. Therefore, neither side would shoot because of the fear of a counterstrike. In short, “whoever shoots first, dies second.” Kim Jong Un knows exactly what the MAD theory is. For example, he said in 2013 that “If [North Korea] push the buttons to annihilate the enemies even right now, all bases of provocation will be reduced to seas of flames and ashes in a moment.” What this quote proves is that Un knows that nuclear war is unwinnable, thus he will never launch a weapon with the purpose of destroying another nation. North Korea is also not alone when it comes to a nuclear arms program. America has over 7,000 active nuclear weapons, which are tested in isolated parts of the country. When the US views North Korea today, Washington must realize that Kim Jong Un is using their nuclear stockpile like the Russians, and even America itself. That is why there is no invasion of South Korea, nor strikes by Un on unsuspecting nations because he and his dictatorship know there will be no victory. Moreover, possessing nuclear weapons not only prevents nuclear warfare, but also conventional warfare. Since WWII there have been no countries that have nuclear weapons fight in conventional warfare, and North Korea still holds true to that fact.
Nonetheless, the North Korean nuclear tests are unacceptable right now The US and allies need to talk to Kim Jong Un about regulating nuclear tests. Diplomatic relations must be opened by the international community to make sure these tests are safe. However, history does show how the United States has carried out similar tests in the Pacific Ocean. According to a nuclear scientist named J.E. Hull, the US has tested over 50 nuclear weapons in the Pacific Ocean between 1946 and 1992. Moreover, when looking at the big picture, launching a ballistic missile into an Ocean is the best possible option right now. The Pacific ocean is rather large, unpopulated, and much safer than testing over land populated by North Korean citizens.
In total, The US and allies need to acknowledge that North Korea’s goal is not to launch nuclear arms, rather gain power in the region. So rather than label North Korea as the biggest immediate threat to America, the US must recognize the Un regime as a regional power in Southeast Asia. What this will do is ease the actual tension between Un and the rest of the world, thus facilitating more diplomacy and less militarization.