Anyone worried that the United States-North Korea impasse is heading to a nuclear showdown should relax.
I don’t lose sleep over the possible consequences of a collision between the irrational and reckless mindset of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the aggressive bravado of President Trump – because all available evidence actually suggests that the North Korean leader is anything but irrational and reckless; cruel and calculating perhaps but not irrational and reckless.
Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Kim Jong-un recognizes how hard it would be for his poor but independent country to survive, sandwiched as it is between American supported South Korea, and China, second largest world power.
He also believes – and I suspect he’s right on this - that the US would prefer to have him gone – as in “regime-change.” So I think he's calculated that given the overwhelming military might of the United States, and America's regime change mindset, the only way to change this equation would be for Korea to build nuclear weapons and a system capable of delivering them.
It's the path that North Korea has single-mindedly followed since Kim Jong-un came to power – and one that reminds me of an inscription that Samuel Colt, inventor of the revolver that tamed the American West, used to inscribe on his pistols. It read: “Be not afraid of any man, no matter what his size; If danger threatens, call on me, and I will equalize!”
By acquiring the ability to destroy South Korea, Japan, Guam, and perhaps San Francisco, North Korea has, to borrow from Colt’s words, equalized matters.
Were America to attack North Korea, Kim Jung-un would kill millions of people in Southeast Asia and perhaps in America. Equally, if Kim Jung-un were to attack South Korea or another American ally, the US would destroy North Korea – and he knows it. It’s a risk I don't think he’d be willing to take - because what he wants above all is his own independent country – which is why I’m not worried about impending nuclear war.
However, since the only possible way to resolve an impasse like the one we currently find ourselves in, is through long, patient diplomacy, I am more than a little concerned that diplomatic success may not be within the reach of an administration that now refers to the leader of North Korea as “Little Rocket Man.”