By continuing to naively utilize the diplomatic playbook developed by his grandfather, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un displays a fundamental misunderstanding of President Trump’s disruptive approach to politics and a suicidal ignorance of his resolve to protect America.
After World War II, Korea was left divided by Japan’s withdrawal with Kim Il-sung eventually coming to power in 1948 as the first premier of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea. Kim Il-sung ruled North Korea for 46 years until his death in 1994 whereupon the leadership role passed to his son Kim Jong-il who died in 2011 passing the leadership role to his son Kim Jong-un. Kim Il-sung developed a cult of personality around himself and his family that is continued to this day with North Koreans professing their devotion to the Kim dynasty through elaborate displays of emotion. North Korea has been cut off from the outside world and little is known about the day-to-day operations of the government.
The insular culture promoted by the Kim dynasty has been effective at keeping the North Korean people slavishly devoted to their totalitarian rule, but it has also left its leaders unable to sense changes in outside political trends. During the Cold War, Kim Il-sung was at first aligned with the Soviet Union and communist China as North Korea’s protectors. However, by the 1980s, Kim Il-sung’s policy of Juche, or self-reliance, had cut the country off from almost all external trade, including the Soviet Union and China, and its economy stagnated. As Kim Jong-il increased his power during the 1980s, North Korea’s government became more centralized and autocratic. Famines ravaged the country during Kim Jong-il’s reign in the 1990s as North Korea simultaneously ramped up its program to develop nuclear weapons while its economy was badly mismanaged.
Originally begun in 1962 as part of Kim Il-sung’s “all-fortressization” push to hyper-militarize the country, North Korea’s nuclear program began with construction of “peaceful” nuclear energy reactors which were secretly converted to the production of weapons-grade nuclear fuels. The establishment of nuclear reactors, done under the guise of the “peaceful” auspices of energy production, is a crucial first step in the development of a nuclear weapons program. This is precisely why arguments by Iran of pursuing a “peaceful” nuclear energy program are widely regarded with such suspicion by those familiar with the details of nuclear weapons development.
Kim Il-sung was able to garner world attention through his frequent threats to launch a military strike or otherwise destabilize the region. These diplomatic outbursts were directed at the carefully constructed Cold War political establishment which valued stabilization of international relations as its highest calling. North Korean threats were soothed by international offers of assistance that kept the country going in a form of international blackmail promulgated by the unwillingness of world leaders to upset the established world order. Kim Jong-il continued his father’s example of international diplomacy eventually bolstered by the development of nuclear weapons which he could hold over the region as a sword of Damocles to extract even greater favors.
This arrangement worked well for the Kim dynasty as long as establishment politicians ruled the world order committed as they are to the subtleties of international diplomacy and focused upon the minutiae of national posturing. Kim Jong-un inherited the dynastic playbook of international diplomacy developed by his grandfather and the big stick of nuclear weapons developed by his father all poised to continue in the grand tradition of North Korean relations with the world of establishment diplomacy and was doing well at it under the Obama administration’s lack of leadership masquerading as obsequious devotion to establishment diplomacy.
Then, along came Donald Trump applying the disruptive technology of business theory he had mastered in the competitive world of New York real estate to the staid world of politics which was left shredded in his wake. Initially dismissed as a publicity seeker, Trump shrewdly tapped into the angst experienced by Americans ignored by the establishment political leadership bent on pursuit of globalism at their expense and captured the GOP nomination while party leaders gasped in horror. After his whirlwind destruction of the establishment GOP leadership, Trump easily beat Hillary Clinton who was propped up by the mediacrats vainly endeavoring to hide her crooked, scandal-ridden past, lack of issues, and grating personality.
Trump was successful because he rejected the notion that politics had to be done a certain way or that there were things one just didn’t do to get elected. When told that something just wasn’t done, Trump asked why and proceeded to do it anyway. His fresh approach and refusal to temper his remarks until they resembled the clichéd pabulum spewed by establishment politicians intent on avoiding controversy resonated with voters desperate to be heard. In an effort to keep his campaign promises, President Trump immediately embarked on a path to roll back the pernicious agenda of the Obama administration through the issue of Executive Orders countermanding the Executive Orders used by President Obama to enact much of his agenda.
President Trump has committed to building a border wall to keep illegal immigrants from simply walking into the country in an effort to increase American security as we face the threat of Islamic terrorism. He has called for an increase in defense outlays to revitalize our military so that it may be better prepared to defend America from international threats, and his administration has committed to restoring the rule of law to protect Americans from domestic threats. President Trump has repeatedly emphasized the importance of strengthening American security to best protect its interests both at home and abroad, and he is working to fulfill these policies.
World leaders scrutinize a new American president to gauge his intent and their ability to maneuver in the murky world of international relations, and leaders are quickly coming to the conclusion that President Trump is to be taken seriously. There has been a notable lack of saber rattling by Iran since President Trump’s election as they nervously watch his administration strengthen ties with its enemy Israel and tilt back towards Sunni Islam states such as Saudi Arabia. Inexperienced as he is, North Korean dictator Kim Jung-un has failed to appreciate the seriousness of President Trump’s demeanor as he continues ratcheting up talk of nuclear war and further destabilizing the region.
Kim Jong-un was left unprepared by his father’s death and untested by his father’s government centralization and autocratic style which has promulgated an insular cult of lackeys unable to offer policy advice that would be beneficial for his decision making process. Kim has grown fat and lazy constantly being fawned over by yes men lackeys as a short, round dictator blissfully ignorant of the world around him.
While formally hosting Chinese Premier Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, President Trump launched his Tomahawk missile raid on Syria in retaliation for its use of chemical weapons. The significance of President Trump’s use of military force while casually hosting a world leader was not lost on Xi, nor was his subtle message which was telegraphed plainly for Xi. North Korea’s nuclear posturing and destabilizing threats has given President Trump the perfect excuse to position three aircraft carrier battle groups in the South China Sea and expand America’s military presence in the region to the aggravated dismay of China which seeks to keep America entirely removed from what it considers as its sphere of influence.
China has expanded its military reach throughout the region by occupying disputed islands, many of which it has converted to military bases to extend its presence in the region. China has superpower aspirations which are beginning to seriously bump up against the very real superpower status of America and its regional protectorates. China got used to the accommodating atmosphere of the Obama administration and its unwillingness to exert American influence for fear of antagonizing others. The weakness displayed by Obama has severely constrained American options for dealing with an ascendant China intent on achieving superpower status at America’s expense.
Xi sees the strategic mistake that was committed by previous Chinese leaders who facilitated the Kim dynasty by refusing to reign in their destabilizing threats. Where once North Korea’s belligerence served a useful purpose for China willing as it was to shrug as if to ask what could be done which such an unpredictable regime, that same belligerence has suddenly been recognized by President Trump as an opening to expanding America’s presence in the region to counteract the weakness of the Obama administration. President Trump continues to flip the script on those unwilling to recognize change and unable to compete with his disruptive politics.
Xi has begun refusing North Korean coal shipments and exports of oil to exert pressure on short round to rein in his belligerence and regain regional stability. These moves are too little too late as President Trump’s carrier armada slowly makes it way to the region to take up station in China’s front yard. Xi is left with the unpalatable choice of taking out short round in the hopes that America can be persuaded to leave the area, or the equally unpalatable choice of a continued American military presence in the region. Given President Trump’s resolve, Xi has to figure that America has been handed an excuse to return its military to the region and is not about to leave again even if China does take out short round. For right now, the best Xi can hope for is to pressure short round into shutting up so that regional stability can be regained with the long-term goal of hoping that America tires of the expense of patrolling a peaceful region.
In President Trump, America has gained a leader able to think outside the box and recognize opportunities where others see only problems. Short round’s belligerent threats of nuclear holocaust have given President Trump the perfect excuse to expand American influence in the South China Sea at the expense of China which is now forced to reconsider its march to regional dominance. A renewed American presence in the region will serve to demonstrate that America is a stabilizing influence countering the inability of China to exert regional stability. This is in stark contrast to the Obama administration which would probably have eventually abandoned the entire region to appease the belligerence of short round to the utter delight of China and its regional aspirations.