Kim is Playing Trump like a Fiddle

North Korea will not give up their nuclear weapons program.  I repeat, North Korea will not give up their nuclear weapons program.  So what exactly does Trump hope to achieve with talks?  Kim Jong-Un is playing him like a fiddle.  

Jane’s Intelligence Review and the New York Times recently reported that the Norks are firing up another nuclear reactor.  This came as Kim Jong-Un was in China, reminiscing with Xi Jinping about their father’s close relationship, and smiling uncontrollably when he shook Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s hand. 

Most Western journalists totally missed the point of Kim’s China trip.  When asked last year how China would respond in the event of a war on the Korean peninsula, Wang made it very clear that if the US attacks first – which is the only plausible way a war would start considering Kim is probably not suicidal – China would intervene in keeping with their 1961 mutual defense treaty.  The People’s Liberation Army is 300,000 men strong,  at the Yalu river, which separates the DPRK and China, not suffering the logistical difficulty that the US has in projecting power North of the 38th parallel, compensating for their technical deficiencies.   (An average PLA soldier carries about $1,000 worth of equipment, whereas an average US soldier carries around $17,000 worth.)

Kim Jong-Un is entering talks with a stronger hand than most of us imagine, especially considering that the US could be dragged into another conflagration in the Middle East this summer. 

What’s really happening is that North Korea is continually improving their nuclear capability – something Western reporters seem to forget unless they perform a missile or nuclear test – while simultaneously making it very clear that Beijing’s got their back.  They’re meeting world leaders in order to buy time, and more importantly, get them to relax sanctions.  Diplomats in Pyongyang are to share computers due to a lack of electricity in the capital. 

Kim met with South Korea’s leader, Moon Jae-in, on the South Korean side of the DMZ last week.  The leaders signed a truce agreeing to finally end the Korean war, and the ROK officials claim that Kim is willing to denuclearize if the US agrees not to invade.  Kim is likely attempting to get the US to withdraw its forces from the Korean peninsula, a move which would constitute a huge win for the Chinese. 

 

 Where’s the evidence of said denuclearization?

Pundits in the media who are low on inquiry and high on advocacy claim that Kim is voluntarily dismantling the Punggye-ri test site.  However, Chinese scientists who recently visited the site released a detailed report showing that the last nuclear test Kim carried out at the site caused it to implode, making any future tests there unthinkable.  So it’s not that Kim is looking to dismantle the site, it’s that he’s a bit desperate, and in fact has nothing to lose by pretending that he wants to give it up. 

The notion that the Nork’s will allow international inspectors into their country and carry away their estimated 20-60 nuclear warheads to Tennessee is optimistic at best. 

On the US side, Trump has elevated Mike Pompeo to Secretary of State and John Bolton to National Security Assistant.  In short, both have repeatedly said that North Korea will never give up their nuclear capability, and that talking with them is a waste of time.  John Bolton said “How do you know when the North Koreans are lying?  Their lips are moving.”  Surely they’re just as, if not more, cynical than I am. 

They’ve also said it’s inexcusable to allow the DPRK to develop a nuclear-tipped missile that can reach the US.  It follows, therefore, since Kim won’t denuclearize nor is he to be trusted, that we either use force to eliminate their program or accept it.  Since we can’t accept it, our top foreign policy makers logic goes, we must attack. 

Perhaps this logic, which has been expressed by Trump, is what has gotten Kim to move?  Pompeo just visited Pyongyang, so he may know something the rest of us don’t. 

When it comes to the military option, Trump and Bolton are right to make it loud and clear that it’s on the table.  Doing so puts the ball in our court.  If the US carried out a bloody nose strike against the DPRK’s nuclear facilities, there would be nothing North Korea could do.  Many assume that North Korea would retaliate against Seoul, however, these same pundits declare that Kim isn’t suicidal.  Well if he isn’t suicidal, then he wouldn’t order a military operation that would be his last. Granted, however, this is all speculative, as no one knows for sure how North Korea would respond to a kick, nudge or sideways fart. 

Crippling sanctions, plus the threat of military force, have brought Kim to the table.  However he’s a notoriously sly political operator, and likely is looking to improve his image abroad while taking no concrete steps toward denuclearization.  His goal then, is to relax sanctions and tensions, while preserving every part of his nuclear weapons program. 

Nick Kristof is equally as skeptical as I am, however, I agree with him that regardless of the outcome, this is better than war. I, for one, don’t think it’s worth war to rid the DPRK of their nuclear facilities, as such would entail a clash with the Chinese. Nonetheless, I also don’t believe a limited strike would provoke a reaction. Trump’s best recourse is to continue to threaten a strike in order to get Kim to move.

So talks are good, and certainly better than “war” as Kristof assumes a limited strike on the DPRK’s nuclear facilities would ensue.  But the question is will they result in North Korea’s voluntary denuclearization?  Hell no.

I’m beginning to believe that Trump is, perhaps not in theory but in reality, just as naïve as his predecessors in dealing with the Norks. 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Geopolitics.

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