After North Korean aggression spiked last month, many questions arose regarding what the recent escalation meant, and what roles the United States and other state actors play in easing tensions and preventing sharp escalations from occurring in the future.
We have answered three questions critical to understanding how North Korea may act in the future and the potential implications of such actions.
How do you see U.S.-North Korea relations shifting under the Trump Administration?
Whereas North Korea is doing all it can to disrupt the status quo, President Trump must do all he can to maintain it. That means not escalating and definitely not matching Kim Jong-un’s dangerous rhetoric. Unfortunately, a diplomatic response to North Korean aggression publicly contradicts Trump’s “strongman” image, so it is difficult to predict how the Trump Administration will deal with future North Korean threats.
As North Korea inches closer to its ultimate goal of launching nuclear missiles at the United States, President Trump must present North Korean aggression as an international problem, not a regional one, and certainly not an American one. If Trump can be successful in bringing the international community together against a madman with nukes, then we’ll see a stronger and more strategic shift against North Korea under the Trump Administration.
What role does China play in North Korea today?
The China–North Korea relationship is messy; it is safe to say North Korea has been a burden to the Chinese, but a necessary one. Answering this question requires knowledge of China’s priorities in the region, something perhaps only President Xi himself knows. But we know what China doesn’t want – regional instability.
While China’s role in North Korea is capable of diluting tensions, it would be naïve to think China can change the priorities of the Kim regime. So while China has some influence – more than any other country – the United States must prepare for the inevitability that, at some point, North Korea will ignore China and proceed with its own agenda.
What are the implications of escalation between North Korea and the United States?
Nothing good. Economically, increased tensions will cause volatility in share markets. Strategically, American military deficiency or unpreparedness in the Pacific could be exposed. If there is any silver lining, escalation may force the international community to address North Korea as a credible threat rather than a troll, and may bring forth a more united global approach toward combatting North Korean aggression.