United States President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un spend a lot of time bashing each other and trading insults as the threat of nuclear conflict mounts. But as it turns out, some experts don't see much of a difference between the two mercurial leaders, while others believe that Trump's provocations could lead to genocide — and even nuclear war.
In an MSNBC panel discussion, Sarah Kendzior, an expert on authoritarian regimes, explained Trump’s rhetoric regarding North Korea.
The panel was discussing the kind of threat that North Korea has over the U.S. after launching its first missile test. North Korea fired a ballistic missile just days after Trump vowed to deal with the North Korean problem, with or without China.
I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2017
North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2017
But as we all know, Trump’s statements against North Korea have heightened fears of a war between the two nuclear powers.
To Michael Malice, an author who has written extensively about Jong-un's father, Kim Jong Il, the fact Trump has been pushing hard on China to interfere while threatening to attack the small communist country could lead to serious consequences.
During an interview on Fox News, the author explained that "North Korea has been preparing for 70 years with the idea that the U.S. imperialists, as they refer to us, are going to come back and finish the job that we started in the Korean War." And because "the regime wants to hold on to power at any cost necessary," U.S. rhetoric ends up playing straight into Jong-un's hands by helping him to intensify the propaganda he and his regime use to keep North Koreans in fear of standing up to the hereditary leader.
But what's worse, Malice continues, is that once the U.S. does attack, Jong-un's first action will be to put an end to the countless lives of those being held in concentration camps.
"I'm absolutely terrified [of U.S. attacking] because you remember [Trump] during the campaign said if someone hits, you gotta hit him back harder, and that's [North Korea's] exact mentality, ... the scariest part is, there are 100 to 200,000 people in concentration camps in North Korea right now — you can see the camps on Google Earth — and people in these camps are told explicitly and constantly, 'if the U.S. imperialists invade we will kill you all and burn these camps down.' So if there's an attack we might be looking at genocide within a day."
When asked what he thinks Jong-un would do if attacked, the author replied that "his back" will be against the wall, but that he won't go down without a fight.
Adding that the Pyongyang metro is the "deepest metro in the world," Malice said it was designed this way "because it's a bunker in case of a nuclear strike," so North Koreans are ready for whatever comes their way.
But if that isn't enough to concern you, Malice added that there's yet another huge threat America would face.
Since thousands of U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, if the North were to be attacked, Jong-un could launch strikes against the South, killing thousands of these U.S. soldiers without much of an effort.
"For [North Korea] to strike Seoul, which [has] 10 million people, with a nuclear weapon would be absolutely easy to do," Malice added.
Adding fuel to the fire, Kendzior explained during the MSNBC panel that the U.S. rhetoric on North Korea is more than triggering, showing us that what Malice said about the threats associated with Trump's provocations are more than real.
“In March [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson announced diplomacy with North Korea failed. They began bringing out the idea of the preemptive strike on North Korea. Trump started baiting North Korea with tweets. North Korea is not going to see those tweets and say, as some American commentators said, ‘This is a distraction’ or ‘Trump is trying to get out of a domestic crisis or the Russian investigation,'” she commented.
“Trump is so unsophisticated, has no political strategy beyond a fetish for aggression that he’ll see things North Korea has been doing for years, like testing various military devices, as a direct provocation against the United States and he will ratchet up the rhetoric similarly and call for strikes on North Korea and whatnot.”
The authoritarian regime expert also gave a cautionary warning for what might be the implications of the Trump administration's fiery rhetoric toward North Korea.
“This is very dangerous, because these are two nuclear powers, and Trump has been obsessed with nuclear weapons since at least 1984 where he proclaimed he knows everything he needs to know about them. During the election he said if we have nukes, why not use them, which is in direct contradiction to every nuclear policy we have had and every country has had. He’s erratic and unfortunately I think that, you know, we should be very worried about where this is going in terms of confrontation between these two regimes.”
Many other experts share similar views. The former ambassador to South Korea, Christopher Hill, who steered the Bush-era negotiations to get rid of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, explained that Trump apparently has no strategy for North Korea; he is in fact playing brinkmanship with Jong-un and that “makes people nervous.”
The recent test was of a medium- or intermediate-range missile that landed in the Sea of Japan, according to the U.S. defense department, not an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, which the North has said it could test at any time.
But it is pertinent to note that the test came after tensions between the two countries escalated, where North Korea showcased its nuclear and missile potentials. Jong-un, a tyrant who is notorious for carrying out gross human rights abuses, likes to defy world powers with displays of his military might, and Trump has given him all the more reason to play this brutal game.
If people like Malice and Kendzior are correct, not only will America suffer greatly due to the possible loss of thousands of U.S. troops, but so will the millions living in South Korea, as well as those terribly abused and mistreated North Koreans who remain locked up in concentration camps.
If Trump put common sense and humankind first, he would put an end to his threatening rhetoric concerning North Korea. After all, his petulant behavior could lead to the death of thousands of U.S. soldiers and war — something that the North Korean deputy UN envoy has already promised during a recent interview.