North Korea is not unpredictable?

Political and foreign correspondent Stan Grant writes that claims that North Korea is unpredictable are wrong.

RNZ: Kim probable: Why North Korea is not unpredictable

I have lost count of how many times this week I have heard or read analysts – and indeed government ministers – describe North Korea as “unpredictable”. It is a cliche, it is simplistic and it is wrong.

Nearly two decades of covering the goings-on inside the ‘hermit kingdom’ – both outside and inside the country – has taught me that the Kim regime is dangerous, brutal and petulant but if anything, predictable.

Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions reach back to the 1960s, but accelerated in the ’80s. It has conducted at least five nuclear tests, the most recent just last year, raising speculation – widely discounted – that North Korea has developed a hydrogen bomb, much more powerful than conventional atomic bombs.

According to various estimates, it has a stockpile of at least 10 and perhaps as many as 20 nuclear weapons. What it needs is the capacity to deliver them. It is working on that, developing missiles that could reach Australia or the continental United States.

Many will see that as dangerous. But so far in the nuclear age no country has used nuclear weapons to launch a new attack on another country.

None of that is unpredictable. It is calculated and it is aimed at one thing – regime survival.

Victor Cha, long-time North Korea watcher, American academic and author of The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future, once revealed that in nuclear negotiations with the United States and other parties in 2005, a Pyongyang envoy candidly said:

“The reason you attacked Afghanistan is because they don’t have nukes. And look at what happened to Libya. That is why we will never give up ours.”

This was a telling glimpse into the mind of a country that believes it is under siege.

North Korea isn’t the only country to arm themselves with nuclear weapons to try to protect themselves from attack.

Who is most likely to attack North Korea?

North Korea is ringed by American fire-power. There are as many as 30,000 US troops over the border in South Korea and just this week Washington has ordered its warships into the Korean coast.

North Korea and the US are still technically at war more than 60 years after the armistice. There has never been a peace treaty.

And the US under President Trump has increased it’s threatening language, going as far as saying they are considering a ‘-pre-emptive’ attack on North Korea.

I wouldn’t trust North Korea – especially when put under this much pressure.

But if a nuclear bomb goes off it won’t be just one country that is responsible.

Who is the most unpredictable, Kim or Trump?

40 Comments

  1. NZH/WaPo: Trump’s ‘impulsive’ problem with foreign policy

    The Trump Administration is essentially threatening North Korea now – just 10 days after launching an unprecedented strike against Syria and a few days after dropping an unprecedented bomb in Afghanistan.

    US President Donald Trump’s biggest liability on the 2016 campaign trail was almost always his temperament. An October Washington Post-ABC News poll showed 64 per cent overall – and 3 in 10 Republicans – said Trump didn’t have the right personality and temperament to be president.

    The first three months of the Trump Administration have done nothing to disabuse them of this belief. A new Pew Research Centre poll shows 63 per cent of registered voters say Trump is “too impulsive” in making important decisions. And that includes 30 per cent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11840011

    Worldwide concerns about Trump’s impulsiveness may be higher than that, especially in areas that Trump is threatening to use his military.

    • Gezza

       /  April 18, 2017

      Trump is threatening a country whose entire population has been remorselessly indoctrinated from childhood that they owe everything they have to their leaders who are accorded almost divine status, that America is their mortal enemy, & who have the 4th biggest, & a very well-equipped, land army in the world. Attacking them presents all sorts of potentially disastrous ramifications.

      • David

         /  April 18, 2017

        What are the potentially disastrous ramifications of not attacking them?

        • Gezza

           /  April 18, 2017

          Difficult to say. It’s possible they might one day try to invade South Korea to renunify the country. Their stance since the end of the Korean war has been to ensure they are not invaded themselves. Kim Il-Sung stopped claiming Seoul as their capital in 1972.

          • David

             /  April 18, 2017

            The choice is really rather simple.

            Action now may have a high cost or very high cost..
            No action may have a lower cost, or higher cost. It might have no cost at all.

            On top of that, there is a question as to it being in US or Chinese interests to free tens of millions of enslaved North Korans, or if it is not.

            Actually making that choice is less so, to date it’s been the no action path of lest resistance.

            • Zedd

               /  April 18, 2017

              ‘enslaved North Korans’ a typo OR… ‘muslim slur’ ? 😦

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  April 18, 2017

              If they invade South Korea, then might be the time to act.

              I don’t see the remarks about nukes as meaning a siege mentality so much as an insurance policy & deterrent. They are right about the US and its bullying mentality, and are making sure that the US doesn’t see them as a soft target for this.

            • Gezza

               /  April 18, 2017

              Here’s one assessment of what a war might involve, who would win, what the implications & cost might be at the conclusion.

              Lots of video clips, & ads: it crashes my iPad Chrome & Safari browsers before I read it all on that device, but was ok to view on my laptop.
              http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-who-would-win-in-a-war-between-north-and-south-korea-2016-4?IR=T

  2. NZH/Daily Mail: North Korea vows to conduct weekly missile tests and threatens war

    North Korea has threatened to launch weekly missile tests after US Vice President Mike Pence warned that the “era of patience” with Kim Jong-un is over.

    Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-Ryol has ramped up the tension between the two nations by saying: “We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis.”

    He also said that an “all out war” was a possibility if the US responded by taking military action against Pyongyang, The Daily Mail reported.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11839975

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4418976/North-Korea-threatens-WEEKLY-missile-tests.html

  3. Trump cannot make such a decision on his own. Kim can

    • Blazer

       /  April 18, 2017

      what do you base that on?.Kim is relatively inexperienced .Are you suggesting he is not influenced by older heads in the…military?

      • Gezza

         /  April 18, 2017

        Military leaders, like everyone else in North Korea, are subject at any time to dismissal & elimination or, if they are lucky, re-education, by KIm Jong-Un.

        • Blazer

           /  April 18, 2017

          do you have assymetrical information regarding Nth Korean protocol?

          • Gezza

             /  April 18, 2017

            I do not understand your question. If you mean you have alternative facts I would be very pleased to see them.

            • Blazer

               /  April 18, 2017

              ‘Asymmetric information is the specialization and division of knowledge in society’

            • Gezza

               /  April 18, 2017

              Thank you. How is it relevant to my comment?

            • Blazer

               /  April 18, 2017

              It is relevant because your comment implies inside information.

            • Gezza

               /  April 18, 2017

              No it doesn’t.

          • Blazer. Even understanding North Korea on a very basic level, sees one understanding that he is a supreme deity, comes from a line of supreme deities, that his countrymen, at ALL levels are absolutely subject to him nad his wishes

            Kim Jong Un has ordered the executions of at least 340 people since he came to power in 2011 — 140 of whom were senior officers in the country’s government, military and ruling Korean Worker’s Party.

            Au contraire in the USA it is the Congress that holds the power to declare war.

            As a result, the president cannot declare war without their approval. When Trump executes Pence ( as Kim did his no 2 Jane Song Thaek in 2013) then hundreds of high ranking officials and CNN and MSNBC announces them respectfully and gleefully I’ll agree with you.

      • “what do you base that on?”

        Reading extensively and listening to experts. You?

  4. Ray

     /  April 18, 2017

    Every time you see a photo of Kim and his generals they are carrying an open note book so as to make a note of anything the supreme ruler says.
    Why, because he has had at least one General eliminated* for falling a sleep during a speech.
    * Executed using anti aircraft 14.5 mm guns.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/13/north-korean-defence-minister-executed-by-anti-aircaft-gun-report

  5. Blazer, I presented facts about North Korea and an irrevocable fact about the ability of war declaration by a sitting US president.

    This is highjacking Pete’s thread. Of course Nth Korea is predictable. As for who is most likely to attack Nth Korea, the USA would only go in as support partner of Sth Korea, if there was any reason to justify invasion, or China (less likely IMO due to history of support, yet not off table due to economic outlook there) No coincidence Pence in in th Korea and China spent weekend at Trump weekender.

    • Blazer

       /  April 18, 2017

      Dont see much dialogue re sth Korea. US proxy?

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  April 18, 2017

        No, and you probably won’t. Trump is just looking for an excuse to play with his new toys. Let’s hope that someone won’t let him. His inauguration song should have been ‘When I rule the World.’

        When I rule the world.
        Every day will see a new nuclear war,
        I will nuke them all and then ask for more
        When I rule the world.

        When I rule the world,
        I will make my country hated again,
        That’s my way of making IT ‘great again’
        I will rule the world !

  6. Zedd

     /  April 18, 2017

    sounds like DPRK/USA have reached a ‘stale-mate’ BUT its NOT a game.. & with these two NUT-jobs (Mr K & Mr T) facing off.. it will likely not end up with them looking to ‘start a new game’, anytime soon ! 😦

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  April 18, 2017

      Mr T can be impeached, if someone doesn’t put a bullet through him. I don’t know what would happen if Mr K suffered the same fate. Two sociopaths-not a pretty sight, even if it’s good to see someone farting in Trump’s eye.

  7. Zedd

     /  April 18, 2017

    *”Generals And Majors”* (XTC)

    Generals and Majors ah ah
    they’re never too far
    from battlefields so glorious
    out in a world of their own
    They’ll never come down
    till once again victorious

    Generals and Majors always
    seem so unhappy ‘less they got a war

    Generals and Majors ah ah
    like never before are tired of being actionless.

    Calling
    Generals and Majors everywhere
    Calling
    your World War III is drawing near

    Generals and Majors ah ah
    They’re never too far
    away from men who made the grade
    out in a world of their own
    They’ll never come down
    until the battle’s lost or made

    Generals and Majors ah ah
    like never before, are tired of being in the shade.

    ** I heard part of this song on ‘Democracy Now’ this morning.. sounds apt ?

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  April 18, 2017

      It could have been written 100 years ago, alas.

  8. Maggy Wassilieff

     /  April 18, 2017

    For as long as I can remember Tensions on the Korean Peninsula always seem to hype up in April….There’s a big military parade every April 15th (Taeyang-Jol 태양절) in Pyongyang and the US and South Korea seem to always have some military exercise together around March-April.

  9. It is politicians who make wars, not the soldiers, Generals, or Majors who have to fight them. War is hell and we have visited that particular holocaust far too many times in the last 160 years. War is not the act of a rational leader and can only be justified to preserve Freedom for the home base. It should never be fought to satisfy Politicians ego. Kim’s posture is based wholly on preservation of his dictatorship of the masses. Trump wants to make the USA great again and place America First. Why?

    • Gezza

       /  April 19, 2017

      Ratings for the Apprentice were failing?

    • Zedd

       /  April 19, 2017

      @bjm1

      IF politicians were doing their jobs ‘correctly’ then WAR, would be the last option.. whereas it seems that this is increasingly becoming the ‘only option’ (esp. USA/allies)

      btw; Generals & Majors maybe ‘just following orders’ BUT maybe they ALL need to be given a copy of ‘Sun Tzu’s; Art of War’ which confirms that war, IS supposedly ‘the last option’.. after all other options have failed.

      • Zedd. Yes, I was presented with a copy of “On War” on my graduation day in Canberra as a staff cadet at RMC Duntroon. I kept it and reread it often and loaned it to a young Maori Officer to study before his course at Staff College as a young Major. Sadly it still has not been returned, but its words are indelibly printed in my mind. Mao Tse Tung plagiarised it in his “Little Red Book”. However, it was the Yugoslavian Army that has had the greatest doctrinal influence on wars of national liberation,including Vietnam and Indonesia, though it collapsed after Tito’s death. But I diverge. Yes, Sun Tzu put it all together in an extremely succinct treatise.
        It is the Diplomats that have to bear the responsibility of identifying and creating the opportunities to resolve matters, before war is inevitable, based on political assessments of what is acceptable to the electorate.

    • Blazer

       /  April 19, 2017

      betold…

    • Conspiratoor

       /  April 19, 2017

      So what should Trump be doing to prevent a dust up with north korea colonel? Put his head in the sand like his predeccessor? Interested in your thoughts

      • Good question. My preference would be for US to sign a Peace Treaty and do away with the Armistice and restore Diplomatic Relations with DPRK and help in the rebuild of Korean society in exchange for them giving up all weapons of mass destruction. Chances of that happening whileKim is still alive, is probably nil. Alternative, imposed regime change by fixing where Kim is and use all 16 GBU 57 bombs in the arsenal while manoeuvering the 3 Carrier Fleet towards Pyongyang and Seoul.