In his first address to the UN, President Trump, Tuesday, warned that the US is ready to “totally destroy” North Korea. This is an unsurprising move given the recent rise of tensions between the two powers.
In his strongest language as of yet, Trump warned the North to end its Nuclear program or face consequences, casually threatening to annihilate the country and poking fun at its leader Kim Jong Un by calling him “the Rocket man.”
“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea”
“Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.” The President said.
With North Korea’s determination to continue its nuclear program coupled with Trump’s reluctance towards strategic patience, a policy used by Obama before him, it is no surprise that tensions have escalated to new heights.
Understandably, people are worried and much of the media’s coverage on the issue has only exacerbated the problem by using loaded, clickbait titles including the words ‘ww3’ and ‘nuclear war’.
So are we heading towards Nuclear war? The short answer is no, the long answer is not likely.
This isn’t the first time Kim Jong Un or his father before him has threatened the United States, it happened during Obama’s tenure and Bush’s tenure before that. These threats are exactly that, threats, they should be taken with a pinch of salt because North Korea’s goal isn’t to destroy the US, North Korea’s goal is to gain recognition and influence.
North Korea is only powerful in its own mind. It has next to no influence on the global stage, with a pitiful GDP in comparison to its neighbor South Korea, an under-equipped military and next to no diplomatic relations, the North has become the butt of many jokes to the wider world.
The US, by reacting to these threats is giving the North the recognition it so desperately wants, it puts the North on the global stage, and it wants the US to recognize the North as a threat that gives the North a voice on the world’s table.
During Obama’s tenure this desire was made clear with a spokesman for the Hermit kingdom demanding this recognition.
“Obama is trying hard to deny the DPRK’s strategic position as a legitimate nuclear weapons state but it is as foolish an act as trying to eclipse the sun with a palm,” said a foreign ministry spokesman for the DPRK.
So why does North Korea want this recognition so bad? It’s not just for show, it’s more sinister than that and it goes a little deeper than you would think.
First off, in the minds of the North Korean people, North Korea is a powerful state, Kim Jong Un is a benevolent leader and the US is the devil, a scourge on the world who hates the North for stopping its ‘imperial ambitions’. This is the result of years of propaganda, stemming from the Juche ideology, an ideology created by the Workers party to justify its harsh oppression of the North Korean people, to maintain the status quo.
These threats and the subsequent responses by the US feed this propaganda machine. It is put to the North Korean people by the regime as a reason for the hardship, a reason that according to the leadership is bigger than any one of them. The regime uses these threats to portray to its people that North Korea is a global power, a power taking on the evil imperial United States, portrayed as a power loved and supported by much of the world. This solidifies the Kim dynasty’s place in power and enshrines Kim Jong Un as a god-like figure.
The second reason is a bit more complicated, it’s to do with regional influence. The US has alliances with both South Korea & Japan, something which the North despises. The North wants to be able to willfully threaten and attack these countries as it sees fit, a nearly impossible task with the US on its doorstep. The North has long detested the security offered by the US.
The North’s nuclear program was never much of a threat to these alliances until recently, when they tested their first ICBM. Suddenly the North became much more confident and it ramped up its threats, so much so they recently launched two ballistic missiles over Japan putting the island nation in a state of chaos and anxiety.
Before the ICBM the North would not have dared make these kind of threats but now they have an ace up their sleeve, a long range missile, a missile that could potentially reach the US mainland, this backs the US into a corner and it is the hope of the North Korean regime that it can force the US to abandon its long standing alliances and leave the region.
Suddenly, the North gets influence, it gets power, it can threaten to its liking, it can force relations, it becomes what it so desperately wants, a power. In the worst case scenario it can launch an attack on its enemy South Korea, potentially unifying the two under the one banner.
See, despite the rhetoric, neither country wants a nuclear war. The North knows it would be annihilated if it attacked the U.S and the U.S knows that Seoul would be levelled almost immediately if war broke out. The North has 15’000 cannons and rocket launchers aimed at the South Korean capital, a city boasting a population of nearly 10 million. Although most experts agree that the North’s nuclear weapons technology isn’t enough to stand up to the might of the US arsenal, they do agree that if war did break out, immediately, Seoul would suffer massive casualties. The amount of casualties that would immediately occur would prevent the US from justifying an invasion into the North. The U.S would be painted as the aggressor and after Iraq that is the last thing the US needs for its public image, already its global leadership is waning, it does not need its allies siding with the enemy on a moral high ground.
However, the tensions are not something to be ignored. This is an unprecedented time in North Korean – U.S relations with the North determined to continue its nuclear program coupled with President Donald Trump’s disdain for the failed policy of strategic patience, it doesn’t look likely to ease off anytime soon.
By Aaron O’Leary – Media Bias Fact Check