North Korea and the Trump Administration are speaking. More specifically, the Kim regime is responding to the Trump Administration’s rhetoric and confrontational gestures. In turn, Washington is responding to Pyongyang’s rhetoric and provocative missile tests. It is easy to assume the exchanges are nothing more than a troubling sign that war is on the horizon, but the fact that Kim Jong-un responds to anything the US President does and vice versa shows the two revivals have an open line of communication. Clearly, the angry, belligerent responses of Kim and Trump are far from ideal. They do, however, offer an opportunity to build a dialogue.
Whenever two or more people react to each other, communication takes place. In the case of North Korea and the United States, both nations are trying to use displays of military force to warn the other. The leaders of both nations are using insults to stoke patriotism and garner support among the populous by creating a unifying enemy. By chance, they are also speaking to each other. Just as disputing couples need neutral counselors to help translate their emotionally-charged comments into coherent dialogue and mediate a resolution, North Korea and the United States, which is hostile toward North Korea in order to protect its Asian allies, need an honest broker.
Simply put, the United States wants to denuclearize and disarm North Korea in order to neutralize a nuclear threat from a rogue nation offers little more than threats of war. Ultimately, the US would also prefer to replace the Kim regime with a far more friendly government. At the very least, the US would like to see a democratic government take control of North Korea that would work with both China and the US. The Kim regime wants to stay in power. Because the Kim regime fears the plots of outsiders, it feels the need to protect itself from the outside world. It feels the need to use aggression to intimate potential attackers. To intimidate a nation as powerful as the United States, it needs nuclear weapons, which is also why the US has a major problem with Pyongyang.
The analysis of the Korean threat has changed little over the years. War with North Korea has been a possibility since the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement paused the Korean War. Thanks to the end of the Cold War and the Kim regime’s pursuit of nuclear arms, the threat of armed conflict with the North has seasonably resurfaced then died away once world leaders and the global press find something else to hyperventilate about. When the North torpedoed the South Korean warship Cheonan in March, 2010 and Pyongyang nullified the Armistice in March, 2013, the likelihood of war temporarily increased. Nuclear and ballistic missile tests have, of course, always tended to peak interest.
Until armed conflict starts with North Korea, it is always a possibility. As time goes on and Pyongyang realizes advancements in its nuclear program, the threat of war grows ever more severe, but the likelihood of war remains the same until the threat is realized or disarmed. North Korea has lived under a “war mentality” for nearly 70 years. Facing the threat of a US invasion since 1950 and lacking the ability to combat external threats, the Kim regime turned inward.
Forever preparing its People for war, Pyongyang, like most war governments, feels compelled to stifle those who fail to adequately support the cause of the Korean People. The North Korean People have lived generations with government enforced sacrifice supporting the war effort, which has imbued them with a more potent version of the “scarcity mentality” and “submission mentality” shared by the pacified impoverished of the US. Because faith in the Kim regime’s ability to eventually deliver the nation from the threat of perceptual war and foster prosperity has been expected by the government to weaken with time, Pyongyang has increasingly acted as an insecure power seeking ever elusive security.
With that in mind, North Korea’s top diplomatic has honestly said that a strike against the United States is inevitable. Despite the tough language, there must be those within the Kim regime who fully understand a strike on the US or a US ally would result in a swift and crushing military response from the United States and/or China. Ultimately, China would have to decide whether to stand with North Korea, which would result in a far more devastating conflict, or allow the North to face the full fiery of karma at the hands of the United States, but there must be those within the Kim regime who hope to avoid either outcome and they may be trying to communicate with the Trump Administration. To find a resolution, North Korea needs to know what it will take to appease the US and secure the Kim regime’s future.
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