North Korea's big new ICBM doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know about dealing with Kim Jong Un
- North Korea's ruling party celebrated its 75th anniversary with a military parade this past weekend, during which unveiled a gigantic ICBM.
- But dramatic displays are nothing new for the Hermit Kingdom, and a big new missile doesn't change the basic truths about US security vis-à-vis the Kim regime, writes
Defense Prioritiesfellow Bonnie Kristian.
That relative quiet was broken this weekend when
Denuclearization would be a good thing, but this is the wrong question, and its deviance from our proper goal sends the entire project off-target. The question we should be asking is rather: How can North Korea be kept at peace?Of course, peace precludes nuclear warfare. As an overarching goal, it encompasses the substance of the first and more usual question. But aiming for peace instead of denuclearization is both a more ambitious and more feasible task.
The ambition includes not merely mean altering the Kim regime's nuclear posture but its entire
"Genuine peace can only be safeguarded when one possesses the absolute strength to prevent war itself," the North Korean ambassador to the UN said in his September remarks, indicating this fear-based position has not changed.
Pyongyang is convinced handing over its nuclear arsenal would invite American invasion, and it will take years of diplomacy and major shifts in US foreign policy to convince the regime otherwise.President Trump has criticized former National Security Adviser John Bolton for his open discussion of applying the "Libyan model" to North Korea, but careful word choice alone isn't enough if Libyan-style regime change continues to be a plausible part of US foreign policy — and it does. Imagining otherwise is naïve and counterproductive.
While significant foreign policy reform would be advantageous for the US in its own right, we don't have to wait for Pyongyang to believe in American good intentions to be confident of our own security here. Deterrence goes both ways — indeed, US military might is far greater than North Korea's by every measure.
Kim Jong-un's priority is regime (and personal) survival, and he undoubtedly knows attacking the US or a close ally like South Korea or Japan would make that survival impossible. An unprovoked first strike by Kim runs contrary to his most vital interest. Whatever weapons he displays, he knows using them amounts to suicide.That's as true of this new ICBM just as it is of weapon reveals in the past. We should anticipate provocations like this and decline to give North Korea the reaction it seeks.
Bonnie Kristian is a fellow at Defense Priorities, contributing editor at The Week, and columnist at Christianity Today. Her writing has also appeared at CNN, NBC, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and Defense One, among other outlets.
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