Thursday, March 7th, North Korea threatened the US with a preemptive nuclear strike. It’s hard to believe such an event could transpire after America’s leading ambassador, Dennis Rodman, hung out with Kim Jong-Un for two days. What then could evoke such a visceral reaction from the isolated nation of North Korea?
The UN unanimously voted for stricter sanctions against North Korea that includes bans from all nations exporting expensive jewelry, yachts, luxury automobiles and racing cars to the the country. The sanctions are targeted towards the ‘elite’ upper class of North Korea, which is evidently what pissed them off so much. It hit close to home.
North Korea has never been a nation to shed tears over sanctions that might hurt the hoards of starving citizens beleaguered under the nation’s dictatorship, but to take away their toys, now that’s going over the line.
It’s odd, Rodman stated that Kim Jong-Un would love a phone call from President Obama to talk about basketball. The dictator is a 28 years old and has been injected into a regime shaped by his his father and grandfather before him. I am not a scholar on North Korea, but from the footage I’ve seen, and my understanding of psychology and the nature of power, it stands to reason that the generals in the country may well be pulling the strings.
I wonder if Kim Jong-Un would survive long if he woke up tomorrow and said to his closest advisors, “you know what, I think we should feed all the people, funnel money from our nuclear weapons program into education and infrastructure, and try and get along with the rest of the world.” I’m not certain that move is open to him, no matter his inclinations.
I’m not giving the dictator the credit to presuppose that such notions would occur to him, but there’s an element of childish insanity to the country that should be examined. His father claimed to bowl a 300 every time, and hit a hole in one each round in golf whenever he played. These are not the claims of a sane man, not even in terms of obvious propaganda.
Maybe the best way to deal with North Korea would be to consider their mentality that of an insane and dangerous child. Perhaps if the President called him every couple weeks to spend 10 minutes talking about basketball he could actually forge a relationship with Kim Jong-Un, or at least get a better sense of whose pulling the strings, depending on his skill in inference and the occasional clever probe of a question.
That aside, what’s more important to examine is what’s going on with the US and Iran right now. Iran has a nuclear energy program, one perhaps years away from developing an actual nuclear weapon. North Korea has nuclear weapons, but Iran is deemed far and away the larger threat. North Korea almost certainly does not have the technology to deliver a nuclear missile to the US – at least not the mainland, but it can destroy South Korea, Japan, or launch such attacks on any number of countries in the region.
In today’s world countries have incentives to obtain nuclear weapons, for once they do they gain a form of immunity. Other countries will tread far more carefully with them than they would a country with budding aspirations of acquiring such technology. The reason is transparently obvious – it’s less risky to invade a country without such weapons than it is to invade a country who has them. But who is the bigger threat on the world stage, North Korea, or Iran?
I have no definitive answers as to how to deal with the rogue nation of North Korea, equip with a large military and nuclear weapons, and insanity inherent at the highest echelons of its power structure. What I do think would be helpful would be to better understand their internal power structure, to know the true extent of influence Kim Jong-Un really does have in the day to day decision making, and the vexing psychology of how they operate on the world stage.
It would be nice to think these sanctions will have a positive impact on the goings on in the world, and I am glad to see that even China – the closest thing North Korea has as an ally – stood together with the UN in imposing the sanctions, but I wonder if there might be a better approach. If I think of one I will make sure to let President Obama know.
The only insight I really have at present is that Kim Jong-Un is an impressionable 28 year old who was thrust into his role, loves basketball and toys, and that perhaps there is a small window of opportunity for the world to communicate with him rationally and to open up more communication, rather than further isolate the country, which may only reinforce the probability that Kim Jong-Un will follow in the steps of his inglorious family legacy.