North Korea and Its Nuclear Ambitions Increasingly Destabilize Asian Military Balance
Nuclear weapons make North Korea a potential threat to US allies South Korea and Japan, China, and the rest of Asia. The insecure and hostile psychology of the totalitarian Kim regime makes the North a time bomb that will devastate all Asians when it explodes. Pyongyang’s advancement in ballistic missile technology also makes North Korea a growing problem for the United States. News that the North has launched ballistic missiles into Japanese waters raises concerns for everyone within the reach of the oppressive Kim regime. Recognizing the Japanese culture has already been traumatized by nuclear strikes, which makes it particularly sensitive to the nuclear issue, and America has a tendency to take a strong offensive posture, a confrontation with North Korea is nearing. If the North responds with a nuclear strike, a massive retaliatory strike against Pyongyang is inevitable.
The US has spent decades trying to appease the Kim regime in a vain effort to avert the potential for a nuclear conflict by building some kind of working relationship with the rogue state. In recent years, appeasement had to be abandoned in favor of pressing North Korean ally China to keep the Pyongyang in check. As this approach has largely been ineffective, preparations, including the deployment of anti-ballistic missile defense systems, to minimize the threat posed to South Korea and Japan have become necessary, which has angered China as these efforts represent potential threats to China. Where China is responding to the situation as though it is mainly an attempt by the US to balance Chinese military might, the more imminent threat to the US and its allies is actually the North’s expanding nuclear capacity. The imminent threat for Beijing is not, however, the US as the Communist government appears to believe.
As the North’s nuclear agent progresses , South Korea, Japan, the US, and others face an escalating threat, yet their current responses to that threat, i.e. restraint, are fairly predictable and, therefore, stabilizing. At the moment, the North Korean government is the one under the greatest amount of stress as it races to achieve its nuclear ambitions, which makes it likely to respond to perceived foreign and domestic threats in erratic and destabilizing ways. Anyone who appears to be an impediment to the efforts of the regime to build North Korea’s nuclear arsenal will be seen as a serious threat that requires a response great enough to neutralize that threat. The threat of failing to mitigate fears among nations threatened by North Korea and address the potential threat North Korea poses to China is, therefore, a far more pressing threat to China than US military might.
At the moment, the behavior of the North is destabilizing the geopolitical environment; whereas, the responses of its enemies are stabilizing the geopolitical environment. This will change as the targets of North Korean hostilities face intensifying threats. The security of a nuclear arsenal could eventually help stabilize the behavior of the North, but the threat of that nuclear arsenal in the hands of an irrational, hostile regime will increasingly make the responses of the United Stats and its Asian allies, along with those nations that are not protected by the US and China, unstable. This will, in turn, force China to act in an increasingly aggressive manner toward an increasingly aggressive US, which it will perceive as a threat.. Under the leadership of the already highly unpredictable and combative Donald Trump, a policy shift is likely sooner than later.
On balance, this means the behavior of the North may become more constructive, but the foreign policies toward Pyongyang of an increasing number of nations will grow increasingly unpredictably and aggressive, which will mean the situation can only be expected to become more unstable. Frankly, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is a far more pressing threat to neighboring China than it is to the US. Under the self-serving leadership of Kim Jong-Un’s father, North Korea’s rogue behavior was predictable and easily satiated, but Kim Jong-Un is a man who seeks to prove himself as a great leader and demonstrate the greatness of his country, which means war continually grows more likely.
The overall problem with North Korea is that the International Community finds itself in a vicious cycle where the communist nation engages in destructive conduct, which forces a reaction at a hefty cost to the treasuries of world powers, then Pyongyang begs for humanitarian aid in the wake of another food crisis before the North engages in even worse behavior. Continually enabling North Korea's reckless behavior has only encouraged an escalation of its disruptive, self-destructive policies. As the impoverished nation advances its nuclear ambitions, the situation will continually get worse as it has. China’s influence over the North, therefore, offer the best chance, but China is very leery of becoming a target for North Korea, which it should be.
In recent years, Pyongyang has flirted with improved US relations as part of an apparent attempt to counter Chinese influence while it also attempted to do the same with Russia. This should be received by Beijing as a warning that North Korea is willing to target China. As such, China has a choice to make. If it attempts to punish the North as it has done in the past, Kim Jong-Un is likely to lash out against China instead of capitulating. If China ignores the threat of the North and focuses too heavily on the US-allied response, China will force the US to react with a military response. That said, Beijing’s dedication to its longtime ally and refusal to cave under US pressure does attact praise and increased diplomatic leverage for China. Because North Korea is a danger to everyone, however, Beijing’s resistance “to protect” Asia from North Korea also undermines Beijing’s influence.
Unfortunately, Chinese aggression, which is exemplified by South China Sea Crisis, continues to be an imminent threat to the US and Asia while Russian hostility, which is exemplified by the Ukraine Crisis and Russia’s highly destructive intervention in the Syria Civil War, continues to be an imminent threat to the US and Europe. Although these realities cannot be ignored, nuclear weapons tend to trump all other considerations, especially when they are detonated as North Korea keeps doing. The only means for China to help mitigate the effects of growing tensions is to find a way to rebalance the nuclear threat, which means, at least, stunting the ability of the North to achieve its nuclear ambitions. This also requires China to help forge a path forward that can help North Korea and the rest of the International Community resolve their differences.
The psychology of the rogue nation is that of an insecure, paranoid person who becomes increasingly aggressive and domineering when he feels more confident. The communist country is very much an isolated, insecure nation thoroughly afraid of the outside world while it is also a narcissist, self-righteous country convinced of its own national and racial supremacy. By defying international conventions and engaging the world in a hostile manner since the Korean War stagnated into an armistice sixty years ago, the rogue state has acted as a state terrorist that has successfully used violence and threat of violence to demand continuous ransom from the International Community. Meanwhile, the North Korean government has essentially created a national cult that severely punishes individual and novel thought. This means the culture is stagnate and unlikely to revolt against government misbehavior.
Insecure people seeking a sense of security can benefit from a criticism free environment. By affording such individuals reasonable concessions when they engage in disagreeable behaviors, they can learn to both trust and behave in a more acceptable fashion. By contrast, insecure persons, who express their insecurities in a domineering, aggressive manner, will be less likely to benefit from such an environment, because these individuals view concessions to be appeasements. As these individuals begin to feel more secure, they tend to grow increasingly aggressive and domineering. Consequently, the only means of managing their misbehavior is by forcibly stopping the misbehavior and/or offering punishments that demonstrate the willingness and ability of a legitimate authority to prevent the misbehavior.
The world is at a critical juncture where the lack of a sufficient response to North Korean violence will lead to escalating aggression on behalf of the North Koreans. That is until the world finds itself in a major war that could start with a nuclear blast. As frightening as the potential of escalation is, a failure to act will lead to a situation where North Korea will be more likely to use nuclear weapons at a time when it will have a larger stockpile and better delivery systems. Should North Korea strike the South or any other neighbor, either China and/or the US must make a quick, crushing blow against the North Korean military. In doing so, the North will quickly learn it does not have the military supremacy the leadership has convinced the North Korean People it has. In turn, the North Korean government will either be forced to learn that its bad behavior will not be appeased or escalate the war. If escalation occurs, both China and the US must be prepared to inflict serious damage to the regime's military infrastructure.
Where offering humanitarian aid in other countries under various circumstances might garner support for our international order, the Kim regime has socially engineered its People to view foreign aid as an act of submission and tribute instead of charity to a population suffering due to their government's policies. Consequently, helping North Korea feed its People allows the regime to maintain order and satiate growing unrest. Meanwhile, the US and its allies have sponsored round after round of economic sanctions designed specifically to encourage its citizens to pressure the regime. Clearly, giving North Korea the one thing its People cannot live without is counterproductive. It is time we break the vicious cycle Pyongyang has forced upon the world and its People. All diplomatic efforts going forward must, therefore, be aimed at reversing North Korea's progress on nuclear weapons
Unfortunately, crippling sanctions have also largely failed, so they cannot be relied upon. Looking at the "oil for food program” in Iraq, which admittedly Saddam Hussein did abuse, a solution may be available. North Korea is a poor country in many ways, yet it is rich enough to sustain a massive military, which includes warships and an aggressive nuclear program. As such, it has the wealth to buy, or barter for, basic necessities like food. Given the fact the North costs the US and South Korea with its use of war machines, they can give up their hardware to feed their People. Coupled with an agreement to resume denuclearization, a "weapons for food" program could help the International Community push North Korea to start disarming while addressing the cyclical humanitarian crisis that undermines its society.
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