Here's the Inconvenient Truth About North Korea and Nuclear Weapons

A man watches a television screen showing President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. President Donald Trump issued a new threat to North Korea on Thursday, demanding that Kim Jong Un's government "get their act together" or face extraordinary trouble. He said his previous "fire and fury" warning to Pyongyang might have been too mild. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

On Thursday, North Korea launched for the second time in less than a month a ballistic missile over the northern region of Japan, prompting Japanese officials to issue a mass mobile alert warning residents to stay away from any missile debris they might stumble across.


The latest provocative action by the Kim Jong Un regime in North Korea came just weeks after President Donald Trump said that he respects the fact that Un is “starting to respect” the U.S., thus blasting a hole through the administration’s narrative that its approach to North Korea so far is working.

Trump, threatening “fire and fury” against North Korea, called on the secluded country to disarm of its nuclear weapons recently, while boasting of the U.S. modernizing its own nuclear arsenal. While I am certainly not opposed to modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Trump’s harsh rhetoric does nothing to advance U.S. interests.

Trump not too long ago advocated for the denuclearization of not only North Korea, but also of other nuclear capable countries. But does the president honestly think that any country will denuclearize if it knows that other countries still have nuclear capabilities? Would the U.S. ever disarm its powerful nuclear arsenal if it knew China, Russia and other major world powers maintained the power to strike at anytime? The answer is no, and rightly so.


How then, can we expect North Korea to do the same? A number of North Korea experts have argued that Kim Jong Un is not “crazy,” as some have suggested. One of those experts is Bruce Klingner of the conservative Heritage Foundation based in Washington, D.C.

The reason Kim Jong Un continues to develop nuclear weapons has little, if anything, to do with his mental state. Instead, it has everything to do with his political ambitions. Kim Jong Un, as the last in a line of dynastical familial dictators, wants to ensure he holds onto power in North Korea for as long as possible.

How can he do this? The answer is by making North Koreans feel safe, which, presumably, he does by advancing the country’s nuclear weapons capability. We cannot reasonably expect North Korea to disarm, or any other nation, for that matter, without being willing to take similar steps ourselves.

Obviously, no sane person wants nuclear war to break out. That’s why diplomacy must play a much bigger role in U.S. foreign policy moving forward. The U.S. should be unequivocal in reminding the world of its military power. At the same time, Trump and other U.S. leaders should not use phrases like “fire and fury” to try to bully North Korea.


While the administration’s intent in using such phrases may be peace, the perception by North Korean leaders is that the U.S. is threatening its very existence. In response, North Korea conducts further nuclear tests, which results in a seemingly endless cycle of ominous rhetoric and frightening weapons tests that affect other countries besides the U.S. and North Korea.

Just ask any Japanese citizen who woke up Friday morning to an alert of a North Korean missile test for the second time this month.


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