The Jakarta Post
As both United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jongun are unpredictable and impulsive, it is not impossible to expect that the prolonged nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula will trigger a military conflict or war.
The United Nations Security Council has produced dozens of resolutions, including imposing trade and economic sanctions, whih are all meaningless to the North Korean leader. But the international community cannot just watch the rising hostility between Trump and Kim from afar, because the opposing camps could take any action against universal norms.
Trump and Kim have exchanged harsh threats, and the nuclear confrontation is becoming personal to both. We need to remember that both less significant and major wars, including World War I and II, were often triggered by the ego of leaders.
The North wants to negotiate directly with Washington and not with others. It belittled the role of Japan and South Korea, neighbors heavily guarded by the US military. Newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in offered a stick and carrot approach, but it will likely fail, as it did with his predecessors and also Japan.
Pyongyang has even ignored China, its only ally and major economic donor. President Xi Jinping was apparently unimpressed with Trump’s warning, but Xi has often expressed displeasure with the North’s stubborn defiance against his government. China may still be confident the crisis on the Korean Peninsula will never spiral out of control.
Trump indicated that he had lost patience with Pyongyang. He recently tweeted “North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! USA.” Kim responded by demonstrating his military’s progressing build-up. We fear that both may lose control and commit unimanigable acts.
Trump and Kim are desperate for recognition of their leadership in their own nations. Trump has been preoccupied with allegations of Russian involvement in his victory over Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election. His popularity continues to sink and at international fora like the G20 summit he was sidelined by other leaders, unprecedented for American leaders.
The North’s nuclear threat is moving closer to reality, and Kim has repeatedly threatened to launch devastating nuclear attacks against any hostile country, including South Korea, Japan and even the US. His nuclear project is probably not as advanced as he boasts, but knowing that the only way to retain his power is by obtaining the deadly weapon, it seems just a matter of time before the North joins the club of nuclear states.
Tension is escalating in the East Asian region, as Kim openly demonstrates his determination to nuclearize his state. Open war on the Korean Peninsula should be avoided by all parties. Negotiation and diplomacy are the only way to avoid a military calamity. However, for the time being, there is no hope that the North will give up.