This week added a new element to the turbulent young Trump presidency with the advent of aggressive rhetoric between Kim Jon-un and Donald Trump. With an ever-growing nuclear threat from North Korea, the U.S. has stepped up it’s push-back. With the news that North Korea has the ability to miniaturize nuclear bombs, many have expressed concerns.
Speaking to a reporter pool at his Bedminster, NJ club, Trump said the U.S. would bring “fire and fury the world has never seen” to North Korea if its threats didn’t stop. He later reaffirmed those comments on twitter:
Kim Jong-un responded to Trump’s rhetoric by threatening a missile launch towards Guam around mid-month. This threat is also probably in response to two B1 Bombers that did a fly-by of the peninsula a few days ago. The island territory would be the location where a long range strike on North Korean territory using bombers would be initiated from.
If one side or another were to act on their threats, it would be rather hard pressed to keep the incidents isolated at this point. However, the fear of full-scale war has probably prompted either side to remain dormant for now. A war on the peninsula would also put regional actors in a bind (China and Russia). The political interests on both sides of a potential conflict makes the actions of China and Russia still cloudy. Luckily, there is little sign the U.S. is preparing for a war, with no evacuations in South Korea taking place or a reinforcement of U.S. troops in the area.
To me, this seems like a situation of two people flashing their egos. One man flexing the fear of the new weapons he obtained through politics, and the other flexing of new weapons of fear he obtained through disproportionate research and development. The advent of nuclear state capable weapons give North Korea a much useful tool for political bargaining. This might be a situation where Kim Jong-un wants to highlight the fact to the world that’s it’s too late for traditional diplomacy, and a new route will have to be developed.
The rather colorful threats that Donald Trump made this week may be serving several purposes. He might be using them as a distraction from the plaguing Russia investigation, or he might be compensating for bad diplomacy of the past with “no nonsense” rhetoric. This seems rather foolish at this point, especially since the other actor is now a nuclear capable adversary.
Although I believe neither side truly wants war, a slight miscalculation on either side may lead to a violent conflict. The other concerning thing is the lack of diplomatic agents that Trump still hasn’t appointed that deals with North Korea (including the South Korean Ambassador). It makes the threat of a miscalculation even more possible. Hopefully, the threats that were made this week still remain empty, and that cooler heads will prevail in the end.