Presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama have struggled to find a correct formula for dealing with the rogue North Korea. The problem it seems, stems from their fundamental misunderstanding of the crisis itself.
When Kim Il Sung rose to power following the Korean War, the international community assumed he would behave much like other communist dictators, such a Stalin and Mao. These dictators were power-hungry, but could be reasoned with, specifically under the threat from the United States of mutually assured destruction. However, Kim Il Sung proved to be a different breed.
For example, the United States and the USSR came to an agreement in the fall of 1991, removing Soviet and American nuclear missiles from the region. In exchange, North Korea consented to stop the proliferation of its own nuclear missiles and to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to conduct an inspection of its plutonium supply. However, while North Korea did complete the inspection, the United States still had to implement sanctions in the spring of 1992 because of North Korea’s failure to comply with the remainder of the agreement. Furthermore, North Korea refused additional inspections from the IAEA under strong suspicion of continued illegal activity by the North Korean regime in 1993. Even the former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, attempted to convince Kim Il Sung to comply with the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
Tensions continued to grow following Kim Il Sung’s death in 1994. His son Kim Jong Il proved even more reckless, becoming the most reclusive world leader in modern history, and transforming North Korea from a communist dictatorship into a brutal militaristic totalitarian regime. Tensions then eased very slightly as President Bill Clinton’s second term ended. Clinton’s commitment to aid North Korea, which was in a deep economic and agricultural dry spell, led to the Agreed Framework and South Korea’s Sunshine Policy. In 2000, North Korea even hosted then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. However with a change of President in 2001 came a change in U.S. policy. Ultimately, the Bush Administration’s hardline stance on sanctions and aid led to North Korea leaving the NPT in 2003.
Relations between North Korea and the international community remained mostly unchanged from this point through the election of Barack Obama, up until 2011, when Kim Jong Il died and was succeeded by his son, current ruler Kim Jong Un. When Kim Jong Un took over, U.S.-North Korean relations took a sharp turn for the worse. President Obama felt forced to revert to Bush-era policies in response to Kim Jong Un’s blatant quest for nuclear power and international prominence.
Until Donald Trump was elected, relations between North Korea and the international community fluctuated but were generally very strained. However, despite the media’s insistence to the contrary, President Trump is an exceptionally shrewd negotiator. Trump knows how to read people and he knows how to tailor his responses accordingly. Trump recognizes that Kim Jong Un is a dictator unlike the world has ever seen. The Kims’ repeated denial of basic aid for their citizens in order to advance their own militaristic goals is telling. Kim Jong Un is completely self-serving; a fact that previous Presidents seemingly missed.
Before President Trump, U.S. foreign policy in the region treated the Kims as though they actually cared about their citizens. However, only a legitimate threat on Kim Jong Un’s life has any significance to him, and he is willing to pass the effects of any sanctions onto his own people. Even if Kim Jong Un were assassinated and the entire regime deposed, unifying Korea is not as simple as South Korea assimilating North Koreans into their society.
A depressing consequence of intense brainwashing is that North Koreans would potentially take years to fully accept the reality of their situation— assuming they ever will. This makes assimilation after assassination nearly impossible. Thus, the best option for peace is to pressure Kim Jong Un himself to de-escalate the situation, disarm North Korea, and begin to transition out of his pure dictatorship by giving Kim Jong Un no other option than his own demise.
Personal opinions aside, Donald Trump’s responses to Kim Jong Un have been, for the most part, strategically brilliant. Kim Jong Un is a bully, plain and simple. The best way to deal with a bully is to show him that his threats do not affect you. President Trump refuses to grant Kim Jong Un respect, referring to him as “Rocket Man,” to embarrass him and make Un seem insignificant. Additionally, the President has made it clear that any action by North Korea will be met with “fire and fury,” resulting in the total destruction of North Korea as a country and the end of Kim Jong Un himself.
The dictator recognizes that Trump will not hesitate to take him out. This realization has led North Korea to open negotiations with South Korea for the first time in years.
President Trump’s methods may not be traditional, but as Josh Hammer of the Daily Wire puts it, “Trump is just devil-may-care enough, just unhinged enough, and (counter-intuitively) just viscerally savvy enough to be that guy.” Finally, President Trump understands that unlike during the Cold War, there is no mutually assured destruction in this conflict. To be clear, North Korea could harm the U.S., but the only country truly threatened with complete annihilation is North Korea, and Trump is just the man to get that through to Kim Jong Un.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.