A Crisis in Korea

Ed Frankonis, Opinion Editor

The word “dotard” was unheard of in the English speaking world’s vocabulary until Kim Jong Un, leader of North Korea, used it as an insult against President Donald Trump (who had previously insulted the ‘dear leader’ by calling him a “Rocket Man” in front of the world).

This war of words has been the product of what international relations scholar Robert Litwak has dubbed the “Cuban missile crisis in slow motion”, with missile tests, playground insults, military actions, and UN sanctions all slowly pushing several powerful nations towards a forceful confrontation.  

The crisis as it now stands began in January, when Trump via Twitter asserted that North Korea will never build a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the United States. Since then, North Korea has rapidly begun to try to do so (starting with a missile launch in February). In August, they allegedly succeeded in putting a warhead on a long-range missile, despite international action.

Trump has responded with hot rhetoric, threatening “fire and fury” (read: nuclear weapons) against North Korea, and military actions of his own, including aggressive military movements. Such actions have appeared to the besieged Kim Jong Un as provocative, as proven by the North’s claim on claim that the United States “declared war” by flying bombers near the North’s airspace.

To solve this calamity before it becomes a conflict, there is an approach Washington must take, and a policy we citizens must advocate for.

For starters, our government must avoid increasing tension with North Korea. Kim Jong Un might be brutal, but he is a rational actor; painting him into a corner will leave him feeling as though all he can do is strike back. Passive deterrence via the machinations of diplomacy has worked against other hostile nuclear states like the Soviet Union and China; it will work with Kim Jong Un.

A policy of restraint and negotiation is one we as citizens should be constantly advocating for; otherwise we will be needlessly dangling millions of lives over the precipice of nuclear war.