An imminent war between North Korea and the U.S.?

After the U.S. attack on a Syrian airbase, Trump has risen his belligerent rhetoric against Pyongyang, while burying Obama's "Pivot to Asia" policy. Trump's discourse has worked to divert the attention of its citizens from his chaotic government and from the poor results delivered by his administration so far
Ilustración: ROSARIO LUCAS
Carlos Heredia Zubieta
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Without any U.S. Congress approval nor that of the UN Security Council, U.S. president Trump attacked Al-Sharyat Syrian air base on April 6, as a response against the Damascus regime, which, according to Washington,  used chemical weapons against tens of Syrian civilians a few days earlier. The attack included the use of 59 Tomahawk missiles and was launched while Trump was having a state dinner with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, in Florida.  
With the attack, Trump neglected his pledge as a "global police" and to refrain from starting new wars. Since then, world media has constantly questioned whether the attack to a Syrian airbase is the prelude for a similar action against North Korea, something which seems very unlikely, considering the fundamentally opposed contexts both countries are inscribed into.

South Korea is the eleventh economy in the world, with a per capita income over USD$30,000,  while its northern neighbor barely reaches the 125 seat, with a yearly per capita income around USD$10,000. South Korea is a close U.S. ally, while China influences Pyongyang's decisions. The geopolitical scenario in east Asia features Japan and Russia. For its part, Tokyo keeps a defense treaty with Washington and shares a wariness with Seoul towards their powerful Chinese neighbor. While Russia has entered the east Asian conversation since 2003, together with North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China and the U.S., in order to find a peaceful solution to the concerns stemming from North Korean nuclear powers.


North Korea has one of the most veiled governments in the world. Only yesterday the North Korean nation celebrated the birth of its founding father, Kim Il-sung, who ruled for five decades and started a dynastic succession with his son's rule Kim Song-il (1994-2011) followed by his grandson and sitting North Korean ruler, Kim Jong-un (2011 - to date).


It's all part of an elaborate scheme

While one may dismiss Kim Jong-un as a whimsical megalomaniac, it is clear that Pyongyang has a plan: the North Korean people may starve, but its government is still very capable of threatening the U.S.  with an intercontinental nuclear missiles attack. 


The nuclear weapons club is made up at present by ten countries: the U.S., China, Russia, the U.K., France, India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran and North Korea. While Teheran and Pyongyang regimes are considered a major national security threat to the U.S. following the Trump administration, it is still ironic that, according to a 2013 Gallup survey, the rest of the world considered that the U.S. represented the largest threat to world peace, way above China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria or North Korea.


In fact,  Trump's attack on a Syrian airbase earlier this month has little to do with the vindication of slain Syrian children and more to do with changing the narrative of the news cycle that was constantly reporting on the chaos of the Trump administration and the lack of significant results nearing the first 100 days of his government.


Many voices outside the U.S. have warned that the International Law forbids the use of military strength against a sovereign state, expect when a country responds in self-defense against a military offense and when a collective military action has been authorized by the UN Security Council, none of which apply in Trump's attack against Syria.


It is clear that Trump has buried Obama's "Pivot to Asia" policy without having a defined strategy for the East of its own.

Carlos Heredia Zubieta is an Associate Professor at CIDE


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