One of the more improbable geostrategic surprises of recent years has been the revival of the North Korean economy under the direction of Kim Jong Un. Just to be clear, that economy remains pitiably decrepit, horribly distorted, and desperately dependent on outside support. Even so, the economic comeback on Kim Jong Un’s watch has been sufficiently strong to permit a dramatic ramp-up in the tempo of his nation’s race to amass a credible nuclear arsenal and develop functional intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the U.S. mainland.
While the image of North and South Korea meeting to talk implies that perhaps there could be peace between the two nations, there could be more nefarious intentions behind Kim Jong Un’s sudden diplomacy.
The Obama administration dangerously politicized intelligence gathering and analysis as senior officials strove to support their preconceived notions of North Korea’s true progress in developing nuclear weapons.
The Soviets thought Ronald Reagan was a “madman” who was preparing a nuclear first strike, and this belief constrained their behavior and helped bring a peaceful end of the Cold War. Now President Trump is trying to send the same message to North Korea.
Rex Tillerson’s pleas to Pyongyang at the Atlantic Council again showed his inability to get on the same page as the president when it comes to messaging. It’s yet another sign his departure is long overdue.
North Korea needs a few more years to fully develop their nuclear program. Economic pressure from China will not convince this regime to give up their nuclear position. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of the dynamics on the Korean peninsula, with many American civilians on the ground.
President Trump has the power to stop North Korea’s ballistic missile testing. He should use it.
The defense of South Korea, of Japan, and of the United States will demand a large-scale attack—a counteroffensive to an attack from Pyongyang or a preemptive maneuver—to secure, at minimum, several hundred kilometers of North Korean territory plus various launch sites and elements of the North Korean WMD complex farther north.
We are very close to a decision whether North Korea’s threat will be handled the easy way or the hard way. President Trump’s Asia trip may well prove to be the hinge point.
Making deals on North Korea and trade is inevitably the top priority for Trump and Xi in Beijing. Success lies in grasping the true essence of Sino–North Korea relations.