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What North Korea really wants
Articles on North Korea before 2019

  • (april 2019) What North Korea really wants

    The USA lives under an ever bigger nuclear threat from North Korea.

    In March 2018 Trump met in Singapore with North Korea's dictator Kim Jong-un. I wrote at the time that i considered it the Greatest Humiliation in US History. Never had a US president lowered himself that much. Previous presidents certainly met brutal dictators, including Mao and the Saudi kings, but never had they gifted so much pomp and world publicity to a dictator of such a small failed country.

    In retrospect, i can see that Trump's utter ignorance of world affairs may have played a role. North Korea probably offered Trump the same deal that it has been offering to the USA since 1992: "complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula". Trump, unaware of what that expression means for North Korea, assumed that it meant "complete denuclearization of North Korea" and rushed to get what he thought would be a big trophy, a trophy that had escaped all his predecessors. It turns out that North Korea meant in Singapore what it has always meant: first the USA pulls out all of its troops and weapons from the Korean peninsula and nearby sea, signs a peace treaty with North Korea, terminates its defense treaty with South Korea, and removes the missiles deployed in Japan; and then North Korea maybe will denuclearize".

    In my opinion, North Korea wants to become a world power. If it ever finds a US president so naive (or so broke) to accept this deal, North Korea will automatically be in a position to invade South Korea in a few days and even Japan after a few weeks of limited warfare. Both South Korea and Japan have a small army made of poorly trained soldiers and equipped with rather ineffective weapons. They are in no position to halt an attack from the well-trained North Korean army. Imagine if North Korea annexes South Korea and Japan: it would be a nuclear power with a GDP comparable to China.

    Kim found in Trump the dumb and gullible president that North Korea has been dreaming of.

    To start with, Kim got something very valuable from Trump: recognition. Trump made such a big deal of the Singapore meeting that the whole world was impressed by Kim, and his status at home was greatly enhanced. Neither his father nor his grandfather even achieved anything like this. Second, Kim got something also valuable from Trump: a unilateral US decision to stop the military exercises with South Korea, something that North Korea had always demanded. This greatly increases the chances that North Korea wins a conventional invasion of the south. Third, Kim even got Trump the dotard to state publicly that he wants to withdraw all US military forces from South Korea, i.e. to abandon South Korea and Japan to their destiny. Fourth, Kim got Trump to do something truly "un-American": Trump, who has always been indifferent to human rights, is the first president who didn't protest at all with North Korea for its prison camps, for kidnapping Japanese citizens, for assassinating people around the world including Kim's uncle and Kim's own brother. Trump didn't even complain with Kim that North Korea tortured a US citizen, Otto Warmbier, who then died just nine months before the Singapore meeting. I guess from Trump's point of view, torture and murder are not big deals. He has in fact never complained about them. For example, he almost congratulated Saudi Arabia when Saudi agents killed a Washington Post journalist and then sawed his body to pieces.

    The humiliation of the USA continued in the following weeks. When Trump's pathetic secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, a man who couldn't teach history in an elementary school, traveled to North Korea, Kim refused to meet with him. Then evidence surfaced that North Korea was continuing its production of nuclear fuel and was continuing work at its main missile site (and it has possibly opened a second site).

    It became obvious to all observers that Trump gave a lot to Kim and Kim gave absolutely nothing to Trump.

    In February 2019 Trump met again with Kim (in Vietnam) and this time he may have understood what North Korea wants: it wants the USA to get out of the region before it makes any concessions on nuclear weapons or missiles. Short-term it is only willing to make verbal concessions in exchange for the USA to remove sanctions. Kim wants to deliver a better economy to North Korea to consolidate his power which now relies only on having achieved nuclear status and having received recognition from the US president.

    It would be irrational for North Korea's dictator to surrender his nuclear weapons. The USA has proven over and again what happens to enemies who surrender their weapons of mass destruction: Saddam Hussein was overthrown and eventually hanged, Qaddafi was overthrown and eventually shot dead, and Iran is being treated like a terrorist state. Iran, in particular, is a good lesson for North Korea. Iran's regime is far less brutal than North Korea's regime but North Korea is being treated a lot better by the USA. The reason is obvious: Iran stopped short of building nuclear weapons whereas North Korea actually built them. Given so many history lessons, only a madman would surrender his weapons of mass destruction. And, by the way, Trump never even mentioned that North Korea also possesses chemical and biological weapons. Without these weapons, North Korea would be an easy target for regime change just like it happened in Iraq and Libya (and almost in Syria). Another lesson came from Pakistan, another failed country that defied the international community when it detonated its first nuclear bomb, but it has never been punished and in fact became much more credible on the international scene.

    There are also domestic reasons that would make it difficult for Kim to surrender his nuclear weapons: his people are brainwashed but not stupid, and over the years he has justified their sacrifices with the goal of becoming a world power. His people view the nuclear weapons as a collective achievement, not just his personal toys.

    Now it is not clear what the USA can do. North Korea is a direct nuclear threat to US forces in the Pacific and potentially to Alaska and California. It is certainly working on longer range missiles that can strike the heart of the USA. The most likely agreement will be a face-saving agreement for Trump that North Korea will pledge to stop testing new missiles in return for the removal of the sanctions that really hurt. This would be a colossal win for Kim and would probably save Trump's reputation with his most fanatical base (especially if adequately publicized by his radical right-wing media cronies). Unfortunately, the USA is in no position to leave the negotiations without a deal: a North Korea still under sanctions from the USA and hungry for cash may sell nuclear fuel to other countries or terrorist groups. The USA will de facto accept that North Korea is a nuclear power with missiles that can strike the USA, and simply hope that North Korea will be happy with that unofficial recognition.

    But the price will be to help the North Korean economy develop, thus further strengthening Kim's power and with the risk that some of the money will fund more technology for better missiles, which in turn will be used some day for a bigger blackmail.

    It is not only Trump's fault, of course. His predecessors did nothing to prevent the problem from getting out of control. Trump made a fool of himself, that's all. He further reduced the USA's credibility in the region. Maybe it is good for South Korea and Japan to realize that they can no longer rely on the USA and that they may soon become provinces of the empire of North Korea.

    TM, ®, Copyright © 2019 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.
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    TM, ®, Copyright © 2015 Piero Scaruffi All rights reserved.