By Andy Milone
North Korea acts like a foreign threat desiring to instill fear in the minds of Americans — who make up the home to the world’s largest military budget. But North Korea is more like a business which builds up its nuclear resources and capabilities in order to be the driver of deal conversations and get what it wants. The fear is therefore not warranted because this is the sole purpose of its nuclear program, and Kim Jong Un would have to be pretty crazy to even consider an attack of any magnitude with consequences, which would be classified as fatal to his country.
This nuclear program is a form of propaganda to enforce the idea to its people that North Korea is a world power — more powerful than the US. The nuclear program is an extension of its missile promoting national parades and the constant modeling of its military as if it has capabilities beyond an atomic bomb.
The nuclear program brainwashes the North Korean citizens while Kim uses the program as a chip to hang in front of other countries and receive compensation in a trade for its supposed non-proliferation. It’s not intended to be used as a weapon, and it hasn’t been used as a weapon since the program commenced in the 1960s. I asked Kelsey Davenport as the Director for Nonproliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association for her thoughts.
“The North Korean leadership is guided by ensuring the survivability of its regime and despite frequently being portrayed by the media as irrational and crazy, the North Korean leadership is realistic to know that any sort of first strike against the United States would amount in massive retaliation that would surely result in the downfall of the Kim Jung Un regime,” said Davenport.
North Korea continued its allegiance to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) as a part of the 1994 Agreed Frame-work in order to receive heavy fuel oil shipments as economic compensation in exchange for almost a decade of nonproliferation. The country was energy starved and had dire energy producing capacities at the time. The deal eventually broke apart in 2002 before the biggest part of the agreement was complete: the construction of two proliferation-resistant nuclear power reactors which would reduce the proliferation threat; it’s the main reason that the other countries agreed to the deal in the first place, but North Korea found a reason to continue program development anyway.
The Six-Party talks, which lasted from 2003-2009, led to North Korea being removed from the list of state sponsors for terrorism. This indirectly allowed North Korea to economically benefit as it would free up the state to engage in more economic activity with other nations. They also received 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil from all parties but never did gave up their program or nuclear weapons.
Beyond Pyongyang, the hermit kingdom has a poor economy with food shortages and famine; this became widely apparent in the mid-1990s. The nuclear program is not cheap and does require the income of its luxury stores within Pyongyang. North Korea continues to fuel its nuclear program through its questionably criminal and illegal slush fund, and Kim Jong Un has never, and will probably never fully relinquish his nuclear proliferation; thus this funding shortage for improved agriculture will continue.
Without China, this country would economically fall apart, but China continues its position as North Korea’s mother of food and energy supplies due to fear of North Korean refugees and South Korea (an American ally) appearing on China’s front lawn if the hermit kingdom were to collapse.
A North Korean attack on the US would lead to a breakup because China, who already recognizes the nuclear capabilities of North Korea, would realize that the cons moved into the danger zone with usage of these capabilities and outweigh any pros that come with supporting the isolated nation and its great leader.
Again, it is another reason why Kim would have to be crazily unintelligent to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at the US if he wishes for his nation to stay economically alive. Over 75% of North Korea’s exports and imports continue to go to and from China while South Korea is no longer an active trade partner of North Korea.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released a statement condemning North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4.
“All nations should publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to their pursuit of nuclear weapons.” – Rex Tillerson
The US responds to this mere “pursuit of nuclear weapons,” so just imagine if North Korea were to actually use them on another country. There would be a significant increase in the level of response to an actual attack and Kim does recognize this reality.
The fear is consuming the leaders of America like Tillerson, who face these crucial decisions to address this North Korean “pursuit of nuclear weapons.” The fear of the sixth nuclear test caused US President Donald Trump to send a navy strike group to the isolated peninsula.
All American responses are aiming to create comfort when they try to eliminate any possibility of an attack, but it becomes counterintuitive when it leads to more encompassed fear from the media and a depletion of military resources, especially when the US administration does not fully understand the exact motives behind the nuclear program.
Former President Obama initiated antimissile responses, and these responses were known to be hit or miss, literally. If the United States continues to act, North Korea will view the US as an even greater threat, which is spurring unnecessary conflict and giving them actual reason to attack as opposed to just a program which acts as anti-US propaganda.
“I’m not as concerned about North Korea using an ICBM to strike the United States first. What I think it could do is provide North Korea with the cover to engage in additional destabilizing activities under the protective umbrella of a nuclear capable ICBM reaching the US,” said Davenport.
The US has provided assistance to North Korea in the form of $1.3 billion over the span of 1995-2008, which includes mostly food and energy resources according to a Congressional Research Service report. In 2012, the US agreed to the Leap Day agreement in order to eliminate further nuclear weapon testing in exchange for large amounts of food. The deal deteriorated within weeks; again, my overarching point: North Korea is the driver of deals with its nuclear program being the center piece.
The success of the country’s recent ICBM test is something to fear only if you believe Kim is this crazy — only his wife truly knows — and this then becomes an unanswerable question. But if you believe that no man is this insane, then the hermit kingdom does not deserve this much attention and should not be viewed as this huge threat to the national security of the US… leave it to another country — maybe Japan, but there should be no Goliath to deal with North Korea because it’s not worth a large chunk of anyone’s time or resources.