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US-North Korea brinkmanship: anticipating escalations

By Ubaid Ahmed

Strains between North Korea and United States are high though this previous week pushed them significantly higher, and considerably more really to an unnerving spot. The particular developments in this regard were the assertions from North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho in a UN speech that it is inevitable for North Korea to launch missile at US mainland. However, it actually came accordingly days after Trump used the same venue to pronounce that US might ‘totally destroy’ North Korea if it keeps on debilitating US or its allies.

United States is the regular concentration of North Korean purposeful propaganda and is constantly seen and anticipated as the fundamental foe. It’s constantly less demanding to lead a totalitarian regime when there is nationalistic cause around which the mass population can be united. So, Kim Jong Un needs an enemy in the face of US.

Scaling up bellicose rhetoric towards West and particularly US would result in further escalations. North Korea however, doesn’t realize the disparity of power between itself and US. Trump sent US bombers prior to Ri’s speech at UN to fly in international waters along the North Korean coast in a provocative show of power. Whilst North Korean are threatening Americans by claiming the very right to shoot down US strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace fringe of their country. There is a continuous war of words; Trump also belittled Kim Jong Un as ‘Rocket Man’ followed by Kim’s disparaged for Trump as a ‘dotard’ but thanks to the goodness yet both are campaigning affronts at each other rather than actual bombs.

The roots of the current nuclear standoff however in experts’ opinion lie in the ‘stability-instability paradox’, like nuclear weapons do deter war as the world witnessed during cold war. However, the sense of security granted by the possession of these weapons also encourage certain low-level provocations and this paradox where nuclear weapons at one hand deter a full scale war but at the other also encourage a low level behavior is the reason why Kim think he can get away with threatening and firing on US strategic bombers.

Nevertheless Kim knows that as long as China will not hold hands with US in taking him out, he will keep upping the ante. China’s and Russia’s clear absence of worry about North Korea’s debilitated dispatch stands in contrast with Japan at the other end of the spectrum. Russia has come out in opposition to the unilateral US action insisting dialogue as the only way out. Putin is additionally indisposed to help the US requests for an oil ban contending that Russian oil exports to North Korea are negligible. Beijing conversely, is more open to pursuing sanctions and is signaling a shift in the attitude. Whereas, Japan is becoming less tolerant with its premier’s pronouncements that North Korea’s provocative acts are threatening the world peace. Japan is planning remilitarization in response to the threat from North Korean aggression. The Japanese defense ministry intent to acquire land-based Aegis Ashore missile defense system in response to the type of threat it faces.

Kim Jong Un’s stubbornness is not likely to stop this brinkmanship yet in the meantime inciting US beyond a specific point is very liable to welcome pre-emptive action. Whatever the nature of the pre-emptive action, the destruction that would ensue the world would be ‘unimaginable’ if quoting in words of Trump.

There is an ineluctable need for the major players to play their part in saving the planet. Neither very hard nor very soft approaches are going to get Pyongyang back to seriously negotiating the denuclearization of North Korea. The international community needs to be more prudent and pragmatic.

However, among the possible solution to the ongoing nuclear standoff, accepting the nuclear North Korea is the one as the world did with China or accept the risk of using non-diplomatic military tools. Though negotiations are one way but they have failed at every turn, likewise war is another option but costly and risky.  Beijing in this regard argues US to cease joint military exercises with South Korea in exchange for North Korea agreeing not to carry out further missile tests.

Correspondingly, overlooking Kim’s barbarity against its own citizens has been standard practice in the civilized world long before North Korean nuclear weapons and ICBMs became a believable threat. This scant mention of barbarity is ironic. North Koreans are suffering by the dynastic leadership that is among the most repressive in the world and this alone is enough reason to isolate or force change in the country.

Well this is the loftiness of incongruity that the whole international community persisted to be quiet on the gross human rights violation in North Korea but when it comes to their own strategic interests in the same region in consort to the real politik considerations they highlight it on drum beat.

Ubaid Ahmed currently works as a Research Affiliate at Strategic Vision Institute in Islamabad, Pakistan 

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