Intercontinental missile launches, stark warnings from both sides: the tensions between Pyongyang and Washington are at the most lively. Kim Jong-un even threatens to drop missiles near the US territory of Guam. Should we take him seriously?
The United States “is heavily mistaken” if they feel safe “because an ocean separates us,” said the North Korean authorities. On Wednesday, they even threatened a missile launch a few miles from Guam , home to two major US military bases.
Would Kim Jong-un dare to go so far to challenge an opponent more powerful than him?
There are several, especially in the United States, who question the mental health of this “crazy big boy” in the words of Republican Senator John McCain. In the eyes of US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, the North Korean leader is “not rational” and lives in a “state of paranoia”.
Jean-François Bélanger, a PhD candidate in political science at McGill University, whose research focuses on nuclear proliferation, leaves it to others to judge the psychological stability of the dictator. But, he says, his bravado has been “paying off” in the last few years.
“North Korea is capable of using coercive diplomacy, threatening to use force to seek concessions in times of crisis,” said the Fellow of the Center for International Peace and Security Studies. In spite of the warnings of the American presidents, it has in the past obtained a return to the negotiating table or the reduction of the effect of the sanctions, it illustrates.
“The regime has always managed to navigate in conditions that were rather hostile to it,” adds Benoît Hardy-Chartrand, associate researcher of the Raoul-Dandurand Chair in Strategic and Diplomatic Studies and researcher at the Center for Innovation in International Governance.
Divided into “extremely warlike speeches”, North Korea “seems to go beyond what it used to do,” he adds. “For the past year or two, it has carried out several missile tests, but also nuclear tests,” recalls the expert.
Last month, Pyongyang made two intercontinental missiles . These demonstrations of strength could put much of the American continent within the reach of the Kim Jong-un regime. It would also have a missile (KN-08, not yet tested) with a maximum range of 11,500 kilometers.
“The idea behind this is to make the Americans understand that they have the power to repel any attack on him,” says Hardy-Champagne.
Libya and Iraq – the enemy states of the Americans who did not have a nuclear bomb – saw their regime fall and that is very clear in the spirit of North Korean leadership.
“In international relations, nuclear states are not invaded,” says Jean-François Bélanger.
“It looks like North Korea is trying to push the limit – the proverbial red line – that is not clearly established, even by Donald Trump,” Hardy-Champagne said. It’s very risky, especially since it seems to show less patience than its predecessor, “he analyzes.