Will North Korea start a nuclear war in Asia?

August 14, 2017

Q: How seriously do you see the conflict between the US and North Korea to the rest of Asia?

A: I have been asked this question many times. And my answer has not changed. I do not see the conflict between the US and North Korea as serious in so far as its going to lead to war in Asia for one simple reason. North Korea cannot possibly win. Neither does it have the sustained capability for war either.

Q: If what you say is true then why does North Korea keep threatening to launch rockets at Guam, Japan and even America?

A: You must understand the North Koreans live in their own reality. And although the total immersiveness of that idea may be very difficult for most people to grasp outside North Korea – it doesn’t diminish the fact, that is the only reality they know. And in that reality, the possibility of war with the US is a very real and present. Even today many western tourist to North Korea are surprised to hear how everything from dirty toilets to power cuts are regularly attributed to US armed aggression.

This idea of North Korea versus the US is so encrusted with the national narrative that it even predates Kim Jon Un and his father and even grandfather. One can perhaps ask who exactly does this narrative serve and for what purpose and it could be said it supplies much of the legitimacy and even authority for dynastic rule under the Kim’s. As since the country is always framed precariously at the verge of war it allows the regime a means to explain away many things that don’t seem to work in North Korea which it’s own citizens would have probably attributed to maladministration had it not been for the fictitious war with America.

Q: So to you all this North Korean threats are really just bluffing. But if so why do so many other countries take their threats seriously.

A: Because the North Koreans have quite a well run rocket program. They are also capable of weaponizing their atomics. They have all the elements to make a threat very real.

Q: Why doesn’t China do more to rein in North Korea?

A: Why should they? It pays out more for China if North Korea is a psycho state. Because the Americans have to rely on the Chinese as an intermediary to influence events. So to me everything that North Korea is currently doing stems directly from some tacit agreement with Beijing. I think it’s important to take note. Even today despite North Koreas confrontational stance, China has stoically refused to impose, serious crippling economic restrictions on the North, despite its recent missile test off the coast of Japan.

Q: So you think the Chinese are in cahoots with the North Koreans. But what would the Chinese and most importantly North Koreans get out of this partnership.

A: The Chinese have traditionally used North Korea as a means of distracting the Western powers from more important issues in the Pacific theatre. Notice today no one ever talks about the Chinese militarization of the Paracels. No one even talks about how the Chinese Navy is planning to set up a zone of denial similar to the SCS in the Indian Ocean. Or even how the Pakistanis and Chinese are working furiously in Kashmir to outflank the Indians. You know why because every now and then that fatty in North Korea will launch an intercontinental missile and after that he will go hahahahahaha and tell the world that the US is next. So it’s very difficult to focus on the cogent and not to be distracted by all this nonsense.

Q: Why have the North Koreans opted to take such a belligerent and non cooperative atttide towards the US when it comes to their nuclear and ballistic program.

A: I don’t think you can blame the North Koreans for being non cooperative. They may well be living in their own reality. But they also have CNN and Fox News. The elites do at least. And they have seen first hand how the Iraqi’s and Libyan’s once cooperated with the UN to deweaponize only to end up being overrun. The US doesn’t seem to have a happy history where any regime who chooses to cooperate with them ends up for the better – so you can’t blame the North Koreans for drawing faith in the power of the intercontinental ballistic missile and atomic weapons to better their lot.

In their calculation. It makes far more sense to be a belligerent and even pariah state than to cooperate with the US.

Q: So in your assessment. The Trump administration strategy, of garnering the support of the international community, to apply diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a dismantling of the regime’s ballistic-missile program will fail. Trump claims he is replacing the failed policy of “strategic patience,” which expedited the North Korean threat, with a new policy of strategic accountability. How does that fair with the past strategy?

A: I don’t know what these people are talking about when they go around using terms like strategic accountability – to me that is another way of saying, they don’t want North Korea to have a ballistic or atomic weapons in their inventory. But let us speak frankly what does North Korea produce that can be embargoed.

Their only trading partner is China. Who buys coal, fish and textiles. Apart from that there is really nothing else to slap an embargo on. In Africa the biggest revenue generator of North Korea is making effigies and statues for dictators who want to immortalise themselves. So all this talk of economic sanctions is nonsensical.

As for North Korea giving up their rockets and atomics. I don’t see that ever happening. Besides we are not talking about a regime that has a surplus of atomics that would allow them to hit every major western capital in the world. They don’t have that lattitude of waging war. Infact by all intelligent accounts their military doctrine still requires them to invade South Korea in the event of an all out war. And that scorch earth strategy has not changed since 1953. There is a very sound rationale why that Cold War strategy has not changed. North Korea doesn’t have an Air Force. It has no Navy to speak of. But it has plenty of land based capabilities.

So that doctrine isn’t borne out of military expediency. Rather it’s an accretion of acute constraints in its 1960’s armed forces.

I think when we speak about North Korea being a threat. There is a need to inject a sense of scale and perspective into the discussion.

From my assessment. North Korea will never be the first to strike. Only because if they do so. They know only too well. They’re as good as finished.

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