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VIDEO: The ‘Hermit Kingdom’ of North Korea and its Nuclear Weapons Threat

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In this exclusive vlog, American Military University’s Dr. Matthew Crosston discusses the state of nuclear weaponry in North Korea and how its leader’s instability threatens the globe.

Video Transcript:

By now, most of the world has seen and heard ample evidence to be convinced that North Korea is truly the “Hermit Kingdom.” It is an extremist, isolated regime run by Kim Jong Un, a leader who is considered by many to be mentally unstable.

This same leader, however, has spearheaded his country to become a member of the nuclear family. And, for the past two years, Kim has also striven to enhance his military’s ability to deliver said nuclear weapons with long-range missiles.

As a result, Kim and his country are much more than just satirical fodder for comedians like Jon Stewart, Bill Maher or John Oliver. If we consider the greater regional context within which North Korea finds itself, we also see far more than just irrational behavior.

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Beginning with North Korea’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons after its first successful nuclear test in 2006, North Korea has capitalized on the global community’s fear of its nuclear program. Taking advantage of that fear, North Korea has won concessions and gained access to much-needed resources. You could say that North Korea has used its “craziness” strategically – taking the world hostage and gain advantages on the international stage.

It should be no surprise, therefore, that the most important regional player and the true local power, the People’s Republic of China, has used Kim’s strategy in its own unique way. The problem is that few people here in the West seem to recognize this strategy or its impact on North Korea’s behavior.

It’s true that China sees no advantage in North Korea threatening the countries in its direct sphere of influence, let alone long-distance players like the United States. But, China also has never shown an interest in truly neutralizing the instability of the North Korean regime.

In some ways, an unstable and irrational North Korea benefits Chinese regional and international interests. China retains the territorial integrity of North Korea and avoids an inevitable sweeping crush of North Korean refugees flooding across the border into China.

Also, Kim’s consistently irrational behavior conveniently makes him the West’s number-one threat target. Kim distracts the world’s attention from Chinese initiatives that might otherwise get even greater global scrutiny.

Chinese maneuvers in the South China Sea, for example, may be disconcerting to the West. However, they are a relatively mild threat compared to North Korea launching so-called test missiles over Japan or threatening to level Los Angeles.

Many people in the West cannot understand the logic or rationale behind such irrationality. But there is no doubt that China is strategically taking advantage of Kim’s erratic behavior, in much the same way that Kim’s very father himself took advantage of this same kind of strategic irrationality for his country’s own domestic benefit in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

It is important to remember that no matter how hard North Korea tries, the Hermit Kingdom does not operate in a global vacuum and is not the true master of its domain. The question we need to ask ourselves is not just how crazy North Korea really is, but rather just how clever will China remain in using this irrationality for its own benefit?

That answer, more than any other, will frame the future of nuclear weapons in North Korea.

About Dr. Crosston

Matthew Crosston, Ph.D., serves as senior faculty for the doctoral programs in Strategic Intelligence and Global Security (DSI/DGS) for the School of Security and Global Studies at American Military University. He holds a doctoral degree in international relations and national security studies from Brown University. Other academic credentials include a post-doctoral fellowship in international relations and global security from the University of Toronto; a master’s degree in post-Soviet affairs, democratization and development from the University of London; and a bachelor’s degree in Russian, Central European, East European and Eurasian Studies from Colgate University.

Matthew is currently the Vice Chairman and Senior Editor for Modern Diplomacy. He is an author and international speaker on peace mediation, human rights conflicts, resource dilemmas, intelligence, change leadership, and education.

Glynn Cosker is a Managing Editor at AMU Edge. In addition to his background in journalism, corporate writing, web and content development, Glynn served as Vice Consul in the Consular Section of the British Embassy located in Washington, D.C. Glynn is located in New England.

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