Despite the much-ballyhooed meeting between President Trump and North Korean communist dictator Kim Jong-un in Singapore in June, things are not going well on the denuclearization front. President Trump has just canceled a trip that Secretary of State (and former CIA Director) Mike Pompeo was planning to make to North Korea this month. North Korean officials responded to the cancellation by announcing that there the denuclearization talks were in danger of collapsing entirely.
North Korea is also accusing the United States of “hatching a criminal plot to unleash a war on the DPRK” while “having a smile on its face,” accusing the U.S. military of staging drills in the Philippines in preparation for an invasion of North Korea. The U.S. military responded that it was unaware of any such drills but also observed that “U.S. aircraft and ships operate from Japan every day in support of our commitments to our allies and partners in the region and in the interests of regional peace and security.”
Meanwhile, even though President Trump announced after the Singapore meeting that the crisis with North Korea was over and that Americans could sleep soundly again, Trump and his national-security team have continued their system of brutal economic sanctions against North Korea. Their ostensible aim is to continue squeezing the life out of the North Korean people until such time that North Korea actually destroys its nuclear weapons.
North Korea refuses to denuclearize until the U.S. government takes firm steps showing that it is no longer committed to regime change in North Korea. For his part, Trump insists that North Korea must denuclearize first and then Trump will help turn North Korea into a prosperous society.
Thus the situation appears stalemated.
The reality though, as I stated in my July 9, 2018, article, “North Korea Will Never Give Up Its Nuclear Weapons,” is that North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons, no matter what Trump does. That’s because North Korea knows that the minute it gives up its last nuclear weapon, it becomes a great big nothing-burger in the eyes of Trump, the Pentagon, and the CIA, in much the same way that Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, Miguel Diaz-Canel of Cuba, and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua are considered nothing-burgers. Moreover, North Korea knows that there is no way that it could ever trust U.S. officials to keep their word on any promise to abandon their longtime aim of regime change in North Korea.
From North Korea’s standpoint, the Singapore summit was a giant propaganda victory, one that enabled them to produce a beautiful propaganda video for the North Korean people, which showed a U.S. president walking side by side with North Korea’s communist dictator, negotiating with him, befriending him, heaping compliments on him, and even saluting one of his brutal communist generals. That would never have happened if North Korea didn’t have nuclear weapons, and North Korea knows it will never happen again if North Korea gets rid of its nuclear weapons.
So does this mean that there is nothing left but despair and depression over what seems to be an intractable problem? On the contrary, there is actually a hopeful sign in all this. It appears that South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in might finally be coming to the realization that he can enter into his own agreements with North Korea without having to first get the permission of President Trump or the U.S. national-security establishment.
Keep in mind, first and foremost, that this is a civil war, one between North and South. The war had nothing to do with the U.S. government. North Korea never attacked or invaded the United States. The war was “over there.” President Truman, the Pentagon, and the CIA decided to butt into the war by sending U.S. troops and U.S. bombers “over there” to fight on the side of the South. In the process, they unleashed an unimaginable reign of terror, death, and destruction on the entire country but especially on North Korea, something that North Koreans have never forgotten. (As an aside, U.S. officials did the same thing in Vietnam.)
The reason that North Korea has acquired nuclear weapons is twofold: (1) to deter U.S. officials from fulfilling their longtime aim of regime change in North Korea, and (2) to provide the means of defending themselves if the U.S. government decides to unleash more death and destruction on North Korea.
In other words, North Korea doesn’t have nuclear weapons to start a war with the United States. That’s the last thing it wants because they know that such a war would end up wiping out their nation and their populace. North Korea has nuclear weapons to defend itself from any war that the U.S. government starts against North Korea or, preferably, to deter the U.S. government from starting such a war in the first place.
It’s the fact that North Korea has that defensive and deterrence capability that caused President Trump to ramp up the big crisis with North Korea before the Singapore summit. It was Trump, not North Korea, who initiated the crisis by demanding that North Korea denuclearize. Trump, the Pentagon, and the CIA view North Korea’s ability to deter or defend against a U.S. regime-change operation as a threat to U.S. “national security.”
Once Trump realized that North Korea wasn’t going to back down, however, he knew he had painted himself in a corner, one that was likely going to lead to war, even nuclear war. That’s when Trump quickly agreed to the Singapore summit, where he was hailed by his followers for resolving a crisis that he himself had initiated.
What now? Why is there room for hope and optimism? Because South Korea and North Korea are working on mutually agreeable steps toward reducing tensions and ultimately resolving their differences, even without the U.S. government’s participation or approval.
That’s the way it should be! After all, it’s their civil war, not the U.S. government’s war. The best thing that Trump could ever do is immediately order all U.S. troops home and then issue a written order to the Pentagon and the CIA to abandon all interest in regime change for North Korea.
South Korean President Moon’s aim is to open the two nations to trade, tourism, and economic cooperation. He is clearly on the right track. By creating mutual economic interdependencies, the two nations get closer to political reconciliation.
For example, the two leaders are working together on a joint passenger train that would run from South Korea through North Korea all the way to Europe. The tracks for the train were laid years ago in both nations and there are already train stations along the way.
But guess what the big obstacle is in completing that passenger train between North Korea and South Korea. According to an article in the Washington Post, the obstacle to bringing the project to completion is the brutal economic sanctions that the U.S. government is enforcing against North Korea.
In fact, economic cooperation between the two Koreas is the last thing U.S. officials want because that would eliminate North Korea as a flash point, one that is used to justify ever-increasing budgets for the national-security establishment and its army of contractors and sub-contractors. Remember: Any nation whose government is a national-security state needs official enemies. In the case of the U.S. national-security state, Russia serves that purpose. So does North Korea. For that matter, another official enemy is China, who Trump is even now blaming for North Korea’s failure to denuclearize.
The big question, of course, is whether Trump will decide to ramp up the North Korea crisis again (or a crisis with China), especially given the noose that special counsel Robert Mueller and the Justice Department are slowly tightening around his neck. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that a U.S. president has initiated a crisis to distract people’s attention away from his own problems and induce them to rally ’round the flag.