Last week, North Korea tested missiles in international waters around the US protectorate of Guam, following its several recent successful tests of intercontinental-range missiles. The North Korean government has long publicly declared its intention to develop a nuclear bomb and delivery system capable of striking the US mainland; what is new is that it is now close to having both. The bravado of its dictator, Kim Jong-un, cannot be dismissed, especially when his threat is made to the madman in the White House.
US president Donald Trump responded with the warning that “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” He was saying in effect that he will nuke North Korea if it keeps using threatening language or if it takes any military action against Guam or the US allies in the region.
Even Trump’s cabinet and aides were shocked by his seemingly off-the-cuff threat to use nukes. There is in fact an increased chance under Trump of having a nuclear confrontation. His immediate response to being questioned about whether his “fire and fury” remark was going too far, was to insist that it might not have gone far enough.
There have been serious doubts raised over whether North Korea actually has sufficiently improved the miniaturisation of its nuclear warheads or developed a missile delivery system capable of reaching the US mainland and re-entering the atmosphere without burning up. It could, however, easily strike US allies, South Korea or Japan, killing millions of people and polluting the whole world with radiation.
In 2003, North Korea announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that had been signed by almost all countries. It was the only country that signed the agreement to refrain from developing nuclear weapons and then formally went back on it, although at least three other nations have developed nuclear weapons while refusing to sign the treaty. The timing of North Korea’s withdrawal was not a coincidence. It followed the US invasion of Iraq and the Bush White House’s announcement that Iraq, Iran and North Korea formed an “Axis of Evil”. If North Korea already had reason to be nervous of America, with Trump’s projection of a more xenophobic, racist nationalism encapsulated in the phrase “America First”, things are now even more unpredictable.
Dictator and President Seek to Consolidate their Power
The main factor pushing North Korea to engage in such bellicose posturing is an attempt at internal consolidation of power. The only internal force capable of unseating the dictatorship of Kim Jong-un is his military chiefs, so he is keen to keep them on side. Beefing up their nuclear weapons program makes a certain sense, when the main external threat, America, has such an overwhelming superiority in conventional forces. At least Kim’s possession of nukes might give the US pause for thought about pushing for regime change, as it did in Libya and Iraq, and tried to do in Syria and Afghanistan and many other countries.
A totalitarian regime like North Korea’s is reliant on its military to maintain internal control, which it legitimises on the grounds that it needs a huge military to defend against an external threat. Trump is a more credible threat than any recent US president, and he could easily choose the small country of North Korea as a target for attack. Strongmen frequently start wars to distract the population from their poverty and the leaders’ corruption—and both countries have to worry about loss of their population’s support. Trump, of course, is terrified of the ongoing investigations into his collusion with Russia to meddle in the US elections and into his undoubtedly criminal business practices.
MHI Pointed out the Danger a Year Ago
Back in August 2016, MHI warned that if Trump won the presidency, the whole world would be in great danger. Our editorial has been borne out on this and its other points against those so-called “leftists” who argued that “Killary” and the Democrats were a much greater danger than Trump, who was then posing as an isolationist. The editorial said:
A Trump victory would threaten the whole human race. As President, his power to unleash a nuclear attack or counter-attack would essentially be absolute and unlimited.
We frequently hear that Trump’s powers would be constrained by the “checks and balances” and “separation of powers” that characterize the U.S. political system. It is imperative that everyone understand that these things do not apply to a decision to unleash nuclear weapons. The president makes a unilateral decision that no one else is entitled to veto or even review. Only the general to whom he gives the order stands between him and the launching of nukes, and the general is not entitled to use his own judgment.
And the editorial went on to say:
Of course, other candidates for President–such as Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein—would have the same power if they were elected. The crucial difference is that none of them is Trump. His track record has made clear that he is exceedingly thin-skinned and hot-headed, a vindictive bully, and proudly “unpredictable.” Furthermore, Trump is abysmally ignorant of the “deterrence” doctrine that stands at the center of U.S. nuclear strategy; he has asked, repeatedly, “if we have [nuclear weapons], why can’t we use them?” This combination of traits makes nuclear weaponry in the hands of President Donald J. Trump an enormous danger.
All this has been proven absolutely right by the recent tensions between the US and North Korea. Having a bellicose hothead in both countries, rather than just the one, makes everything more dangerous.
What is the World’s Future?
Trump’s staff have subsequently tried to dial down his aggressive stance, but that does not make a Trump-led government any less threatening to world peace. When the commander-in-chief of the world’s largest military force cannot discuss a tense situation without suggesting nuclear annihilation, we should all be nervous. The cold-war fears of nuclear war may have subsided with the demise of the Soviet Union, but the nuclear weapons in the possession of the US, Russia, and the additional nuclear powers could wipe out humanity many times over and contaminate the earth for centuries.
The past 72 years of anti-nuke and pro-disarmament mass movements of people around the world have not abolished this capacity to kill everyone on earth, and more nations keep joining the “nuclear club”. We consequently need to focus on the drivers to war rather than on the means by which they are fought.
Only by building a future society in which we have cooperation among working people of the world will we be able to remove the threat of nuclear destruction. This can only be done by the masses of people, who have no stake in wars between governments. In a nuclear age, competing capitalist powers will continue to tip us towards war without regard to the likelihood of total destruction.
The developing Resistance across the world to Trump and all he stands for is actively raising these questions. Massive numbers of people can exert the pressure to stop this madness by removing him from office and defeating his base of support. This could also give space for the people of North Korea to challenge their totalitarian regime, and stop them from being treated as acceptable collateral damage in Trump’s confrontation with the regime.