On Thursday night President Donald Trump gave Syria’s Bashir al-Assad a spanking — in the form of several dozen tomahawk missiles. That is causing North Korea’s boy king to wet his pants in fear. But with his back against the wall, Kim Jong Un may cling even tighter to his dreams of becoming a nuclear power — to protect his regime from overthrow.
The strike was intended to send a message not only to Syria’s government, but also to the boy-king Kim Jong Un. It also occurred just before Trump’s meeting with China’s President Xi Jingping, and at a time when the U.S. is asking Beijing to take action against North Korea’s nuclear program.
North Korea has for decades been an astute observer of world events, which is one reason its brutal regime has survived despite decades of horrid abuse against its own people, as well as gross mismanagement of the economy, which has caused mass starvation.
North Korea’s Kim is likely quaking in his boots over the Syria attack, as Trump is showing himself to be decisive yet unpredictable — a far cry from former President Barack Obama’s hands-off approach to foreign policy. Critics say Obama was paralyzed by fear of escalation in Syria, and that’s why he took no game-changing action while civilians perished. Trump has also often blasted Obama for advertising U.S. military actions ahead of time, giving the enemy time to prepare and giving up the element of surprise.
But it remains unknown how Kim will react. And with his back against the wall, he may well cling tighter to his wet dreams of North Korea becoming a nuclear power.
Indeed, the Kim family, which has ruled North Korea with an iron fist since 1953, watched in horror over a decade ago and as strongman Saddam Huseein was hunted down like an animal, then tried and executed like a common criminal.
Kim also watched in fear as Obama overthrew Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi a few years back, and as a local militia beat the Libyan strongman to death. Gaddafi’s body was then stored in a freezer in a local market for several days, so Libyans nationwide could come and gawk at his lifeless body.
This is not the kind of end that Kim wants for himself, his family and his regime, so it’s highly likely that he’ll double down on his nuclear program, in a bid to avoid the fate of Saddam and Gaddafi.
But Kim’s nuclear program still requires much work before he develops a nuclear-tipped missile that can strike the United States. He’s got nuclear weaponry, but delivering nukes to the United States via missile is tough, and he’s not quite able to do that yet.
That leaves a short window of perhaps a couple of years for Washington to take action to topple the Kim regime before Pyongyang becomes a full nuclear power. So far, Trump has not addressed this possibility, and said on the campaign trail that he only believes in using force if it’s in the U.S. national interest. Still, Trump said that if China does not do anything about North Korea, the United States will, although he has not spelled out what that means.
In the meantime, North Korea has 11,000 artillery tubes aimed directly at its southern neighbor and U.S. ally Seoul. While Pyongyang would lose a fight against Seoul, North Korea could also do a lot of damage to its neighbor. Seoul is a densely packed metropolis with over 10 million people. The country’s entire political, economic, financial and social center is concentrated in Seoul and its many surrounding satelite cities. An attack by North Korea could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths, if not more.
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