North Korea: Why the escalation now?

This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)

Contrary to the traditional meekness and diplomacy with which the US presidents have faced the delicate problem of North Korea, Donald Trump has been involved in a verbal duel with the North Korean regime which is keeping the whole international community alert. Trump’s warning about he will unleash “a never seen sea of fury and fire” has exalted the North Korean leader, already a person of erratic behaviour and quite easy to excite.

On the very last July 4th, the American Independence Day, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un announced a “gift for North American bastards”: The North Korean army successfully tested an intercontinental missile capable of reaching US territory. Announced on last Tuesday by the North Korean state television (KCNA), which reported that Kim Jong-Un witnessed the launch, like he usually does. Since then, provocations and warnings from one side to another have occurred, as if it were a race to utter the last word, ever stronger and more aggressive. Trump’s strategy of maintaining maximum tension, perhaps as the way to get China out of inaction with Pyongyang, is becoming increasingly unique. In the midst of the escalating tension between the US and North Korea, President Donald Trump regained his war rhetoric and redoubled the tone of his threats against the Pyongyang regime: “They should be very, very nervous.”

As a finishing touch, the “beloved leader” as he likes to be called, of the last Stalinist regime on the planet, Kim Jong-Un, made public his intention to launch an attack on the island of Guam, an island taken from Spain in 1898 and where the US maintains a contingent of more than 3000 soldiers. The North Korean “beloved leader” did not just announce his pretensions, but presented an exhaustive military plan with all the details of the hypothetical attack. Thus, he was putting more fuel to the fire of his unprecedented verbal shock with the United States. North Korea threatened with a “sea of fire” to Washington after the harsh economic sanctions against the country approved by the UN Security Council. North Korea occasionally threatens to “turn Seoul into a Sea of Fire.”  The South Korean, US and other international media often relay this statement, amplifying its effect. But it is yet quiet normal North Korean dialectics.

But for the first time in a long time, the international markets are showing signs of concern over the escalating North Korean threat. Although the balance of tension has reached a point never seen before, many experts doubt that a military conflict will indeed be triggered. It would not benefit either party. For North Korea, a war against the US would mean to signing its disappearance as a country. For the US would be a serious deterioration of relations with its allies in Asia, mainly Japan and South Korea, who would pay very dearly in human lives. It seems that Kim Jong-Un’s regime has settled into such a crazy moving forward, as is the mood of the “beloved leader”, which prevents him from gauging how far he can stretch the rope without causing a catastrophe. Not only because of such direct threats to the US, if there were to be an attack on its territory, would an immediate war unfold which would suppose the end of the Stalinist and hereditary Kim’ regime, but which would cause many victims in neighbouring countries and allies such as South or Japan.

For years, the White House has tried to defuse the tension, pushing ways of negotiating to various side, although truly unsuccessfully, and urging China, at the same time, to exert its influence over Pyongyang. The sanctions imposed on the regime were relatively limited and Washington appeased the fears of its partners in the region, Seoul and Tokyo, reinforcing military alliances and defence systems. But the Trump Administration seems determined to go further.

North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests. That is really quite a lot. Some expert analysts in North Korea, such as Jeffrey Lewis of Foreign Policy, ensures that “some of my colleagues still think the United States might persuade North Korea to abandon, or at least freeze, its nuclear and missile programs. I am not so sure. I suspect we might have to settle for trying to reduce tensions so that we live long enough to figure this problem out. But there is only one way to figure out who is right: Talk to the North Koreans. There is no other alternative. The other options are basically terrible.”

My opinion is that the luck we have is these threats are not for those North Korea adversaries but for their followers, which guarantees the peace in some way. I’ve always been fascinated by the closed world of the Kim’s, since everything there seems so aberrant to me. Guys who believe that Kim Jong Il, father of Kim Jong-Un, never defecated, as his biography claims. Or that he could make eleven holes of golf in one shot, or that he published 1,500 books and the three best world operas in just three years. But the truth is that a dictatorship is not a place where the people believe a lot of stupid things, but in which you cannot say that you do not believe them. It seems like the secrecy attributed to North Korea contrasts with so many ridiculous details which the biographers give us about their leaders.

Despite the disastrous situation of North Korea’s economy, now a little better than in the 1990s when the country suffered a terrible famine, the regime extensively uses military propaganda and exploits its role as a victim to mask the misery, the continuing violations of human rights and the lack of freedoms of the population. And the North Korean authorities are aware that nuclear weapons are the only option they have for counteracting their asymmetrical relationship with their rivals.

As the concerns grow over an unprecedented possible military conflict, which aligns the main powers between the criticisms in the language of Trump, as Germany, with Chancellor Merkel to the front, and those who support him, as the United Kingdom, the former Spanish island of Guam, is situated in the worst of the situations. But for the time being, as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said, given his less provocative mood, and based on expert analysts, “the Americans can quietly sleep.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *