Sovereignty is having ultimate authority over a territory, with the absolute right to govern. Thus, a sovereign state is one that governs itself, independent of any foreign power, with the full authority to make war or peace and to form treaties or alliances with foreign nations.
North Korea is a young country which was created in 1953 and has been under constant external threat ever since. Its southern frontier is, uniquely, a demilitarised zone which marks the armistice with the UN*. The war continues in lieu of a peace treaty. The USA was the principal member of the UN coalition and they have a long history of imposing regime change either through direct military interventions or economic sanctions. The USA’s overwhelming military power has ensured this policy is usually successful – though Cuba was a failure in the 1960s. President Kim has wrecked this policy by levelling the power relationship. The USA is now involved in a Cold War with an enemy who accepts the logic of nuclear warfare: mutually assured destruction. The question is, ‘Does the USA also accept the logic of nuclear warfare?’
The Korean peninsula was ruled by the Japanese from 1910-45. The Japanese treated the Koreans as a racially inferior people. The Japanese enslaved Korean women to act as ‘comfort girls’ for the army for example. The Japanese defeat in 1945 meant Korea became a nation-state. Ideological differences quickly flared as communist China took a traditional leadership role in Korean affairs. The UN attempted to enforce democracy and in the ensuing war the US led coalition fought the communist Korean-Chinese armies to a standstill. The 1953 armistice established a demilitarised zone between South and North Korea. The demilitarised zone exists to this day, which means the war hasn’t officially ended. North Korea is trapped between the Chinese in the west and the US backed Japanese and South Koreans.
North Korean style communism and cultural isolation has created a unique society. The Kim family is a dynastic government, which is the antithesis of communist thinking. Nonetheless the Kim family have looked at world politics and decided to devote enormous resources to self-defence. The outcome is a partial levelling of the nuclear imbalance with the USA. This has created new geo-political realities **.
The vilification of President Kim portrays him as a lunatic who could, out of pique, unleash nuclear war***. The Vietnam war was an attempt at regime change, which proved much harder than anyone had envisaged. US Airforce General LeMay, in 1965, offered a solution to President Johnson “….[a] solution to the problem would be to tell [the North Vietnamese Communists] frankly that they’ve got to draw in their horns and stop their aggression or we’re going to bomb them into the Stone Age. And we would shove them back into the Stone Age with Air power or Naval power”****. All of which sounds ‘lunatic’ in the sense that President Kim ‘is’ lunatic. The USA has undertaken numerous regime changes across the world and Kim has drawn the obvious conclusion. None of those countries could compete with the USA because there was a total imbalance of power. Kim’s nuclear programme and adoption of bellicose rhetoric has destroyed the fundamentals of US foreign policy, which is: ‘We can attack you but you can’t attack us’.
President Trump has a conundrum. His bellicose rhetoric, personal abuse and posturing is mirrored by Kim. Playground insults are exchanged with Trump describing Kim as “short and fat” whilst Kim response upped the insult ratio, “I will surely and definitely tame
the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.”***** Trump’s ability to conduct a conventional war is non-existent as Seoul is only 35 miles south of the demilitarised zone and would be obliterated by Kim’s enormous land army. Kim is entitled to develop nuclear weapons for precisely the same reason that the USA, Britain, France, Israel and Russia are. North Korea is a sovereign state not a gangster organisation and there is precisely no evidence that they will be more irresponsible than the USA in the possession of nuclear weapons. North Korea doesn’t promote regime change either militarily or economically. They don’t have a proactive interventionist foreign policy, unlike the USA.
North Korea is an embattled country born out of war. It’s currently under active progressive aggression from economic sanctions and it is vilified. Is it any wonder that they are unwilling to compromise with those offering bombastic rhetoric?
**A balanced analysis is here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21710644 President Trump’s response hasn’t recognised the historic reality of the fear of North Korea to USA imposed regime change. See http://edition.cnn.com/2017/12/08/politics/north-korea-trump-dangerous-choice/index.html