Does North Korea Have A Master Plan?

For 14 years, Kim Jong-nam live in exile Once, he was heir to North Korea’s Supreme Leader, King Jong-il

But he fell out of favour and lost his place of power On 13th February 2017, he was assassinated in Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia by a team of killers using a banned nerve agent Suspicion immediately fell on Kim Jong-nam’s half-brother and his replacement as ruler in Pyongyang: Kim Jong-un Jong-nam was under the protection of North Korea’s ally, China The assassination angered both China and Malaysia, North Korea’s two most important international friends

It also elevated growing tensions with South Korea and the United States Events have escalated so much that war seems like a very real possibility – and it may even go nuclear Why would Kim Jong-un provoke his strongest enemies, and alienate his only allies? And why would he do it now? What does North Korea hope to gain? The assassination is just the most surprising incident in a series of provocative actions by North Korea Kim Jong-un has carried out illegal nuclear tests, paraded intercontinental ballistic missiles before the world, launched others into Japanese waters, and carried out its largest ever live-fire drill In response, South Korea and the United States continued with their annual military exercises

They last 11 days and involve aircraft carriers, fighter jets and army manoeuvres The US also interrupted the US

S Carl Vinson’s planned exercise with the Australian Navy to carry out new exercises with the Japanese navy, and made its South Korea missile defence system operational President Trump ordered new economic sanctions on North Korea He also called Kim Jong-un weak and said a “major, major conflict” was possible Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says all military options are on the table when it comes to dealing with North Korea

In turn, Jong-un said any attack on his state would trigger a merciless response However, Jong-un may be unable to thwart an invasion by the US, Japan and South Korea It seems he can no longer rely on help from China or Malaysia

More than 80% of North Korean trade is with China In particular, North Korea depends on the Chinese importing coal and exporting oil and weapons across the border As a result of assassinating Jong-nam, President Xi Jinping banned buying North Korean coal for the rest of the year With a fragile economy and without a fully operational nuclear arsenal, it appears suicidal for Kim Jong-un to cut his lifelines and provoke his most powerful enemies at the same time Yet China’s displeasure with North Korea may all be a charade

Its decision to stop coal imports is fairly meaningless It has already bought more than its quota for 2017 Furthermore, President Xi has resisted pressure to stop Kim Jong-un’s nuclear program As long as America has troops and missile systems in South Korea, Chinese policy is to maintain stability in the region Once, they saw Kim Jong-nam as a potential replacement for Jong-un, a tool to threaten Pyongyang

Now that he is dead, their only choice will be to come to Jong-un’s defence Furthermore, Malaysia seems to have given up on blaming North Korea for the assassination It has even released all North Korean suspects This may be the clearest indication that Kim Jong-un knows what he is doing Retired rear-admiral John Kirby says it is tempting to dismiss him as crazy, but this is a mistake

John Feffer, co-director of progressive think-tank Foreign Policy In Focus, agrees He argues that all of his actions are geared towards the same goals as his father and grandfather: the preservation of the Kim dynasty and his regime in North Korea A recent defector from the north confirmed that Kim essentially wants to crown himself king To achieve this, Feffer says Kim needs the diplomatic recognition that only the US

A can provide If the US recognised Jong-un’s authority, most of the west and South Korea would follow

This would lead to economic sanctions being lifted, and military containment being decreased North Korea would be open to the world for business, and Kim Jong-un would be the point of entry, thus ensuring his rule would continue The best way to do this, is to either threaten or shame the US into admitting his power

The recent escalation of hostilities does both This may explain the timing of Kim Jong-un’s provocative behaviour His opponents on the world stage are divided South Korea’s conservative President Park Geun-Hye has just been impeached, and the new President is in favour of conciliating with North Korea, and is openly less friendly to the US

A More crucially, President Donald Trump is deeply unpopular across most of the world By mobilising troops and warships on North Korea’s borders, and threatening invasion, Trump may end up in a corner If Trump attacks the Hermit Kingdom, he risks not only igniting a full-scale war with China, but also making Kim look like the victim This may be why Kim still denies that he killed his half-brother, instead accusing his enemies of conspiring against him

What’s more, hundreds of thousands of South Koreans are guaranteed to die if war breaks out in the peninsula, thanks to a retaliatory missile system that it already in place This may compel Trump to back down If he does, he will embarrass the USA

and may force them into officially recognising the Kim regime All Kim Jong-un has to do is what he already wants to do: keep developing and testing his nuclear program If the crisis in Korea is an international game of poker, then Kim Jong-un seems to be calling everyone’s bluff He probably removed his biggest rival and is flagrantly developing nuclear weapons He knows that his allies cannot afford to abandon him, and his enemies cannot afford to attack him

If worst comes to worst, both Koreas will be devastated by war; otherwise, Kim’s authority only becomes more legitimate, the more attention and respect he gains from the USA The question is, just how unpredictable will Kim Jong-un continue to be, and how far will he go?

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