Melina’s Memorandum

A lesson on brinksmanship: The current status of US and North Korea relations

Threats. Name calling. Aggressive tweeting. That may be acceptable between feuding high-schoolers or between celebrities. Not between world leaders. The status of relations between the U.S. and North Korea has recently been a far cry from diplomatic norms.

According to Britannica Brinksmanship is the foreign policy practice of “one or both parties forcing the interaction between them to the threshold of confrontation in order to gain an advantageous negotiating position…The technique is characterized by aggressive risk-taking policy choices that court potential disaster.”

Dialogue between the two leaders, President Donald Trump and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un has become increasingly hostile following North Korea’s sharp increase in testing of intercontinental missiles and nuclear weapons.

In his maiden speech at the U.N., Trump said that the U.S. would “totally destroy” North Korea if it threatened the U.S. or any of its allies.

Kim promptly responded and directly rebutted Trump’s statements. He said that Trumps words displayed mentally deranged behavior and only cemented his confidence the path he has chosen to take in nuclear testing. Kim followed these comments describing President Trump as a “dotard.” According to Merriam Webster, a “dotard” is “a state or period of senile decay marked by decline of mental poise and alertness.”

Since then, Trump referred to the North Korean leader as, “Little Rocket Man,” and said “North Korea wouldn’t be around much longer.”

The top diplomat from North Korea responded to these tweets saying that these essentially were a “declaration of war.”

As a two-time member of FMU’s National Model United Nations (NMUN) team, I am relatively in tune with the workings of the U.N. and standard diplomatic speech. This has led me to be an advocate of international diplomacy and peace through multilateral agreements of nations. I was mildly appalled at the behavior of both leaders flagrantly throwing around the potential destruction of countries and dissension of relations into nuclear war, especially since the aggressive remarks from North Korea were a result of inflammatory statements by the U.S. president.

I consider myself to be a very proud American. I love my country. I also fully believe that we need to be strong with our stance against totalitarian regimes that threaten world peace. The U.S. president should take a strong stance against North Korea’s dangerous actions; however, this is not the manner in which the leader of one of the most influential nations on the planet should carry themselves. Words matter, especially when dealing with a leader of a nation with nuclear weapons that could potentially reach our Pacific coast.

I asked the two professors who run the NMUN, Dr. William Daniel and Dr. Scott Kauffman, their thoughts on the issue. Both independently brought up the idea of brinksmanship. No coincidence there.

Given that the U.S. plays such an important role in maintaining world peace, these speeches at the U.N. should be treated with the utmost seriousness. Is there precedence for the U.S. speaking out in this sort of manner at the U.N.? Not really. Daniel explained that other countries have made brash statements, but not the United States. These comments can imply that our country is undergoing turmoil and erratic behavior.

The tweets only further this idea.

Diplomacy is dependent upon rational discussion and compromise, neither of which is currently happening.

So, should we be worried?

In the next few weeks, both Kaufman and Daniel expect to see continued testing from North Korea and increased militarization. Kaufman said that we should expect to see frequent name calling, but the bigger question would be if North Korea attempted nuclear tests in the Pacific. He also said this would raise the stakes enormously.

Many believe that placing economic pressures to financially starve the North Korean agenda through sanctions will be the answer to fighting the increasing militarization of Kim’s regime.

North Korea has been under sanctions before though, and it did not deter its actions. So, can we actually stop money from flowing into the country? The U.S. has stopped all direct economic participation with the country, but indirect participation has occurred through China, since we do business with them and they do business with North Korea.

Consequently, the success of these sanctions will be heavily dependent upon China’s participation.

“China directly works with North Korea, and by China agreeing to have their central bank police the new sanctions, that might actually turn off the tap of money flowing into North Korea,” Daniel said.

Keep an eye on the news within the next few weeks. Stay educated and alert. It’s important to look at the consequences of using social media as a source of political discourse between nations. Whether you agree or disagree with our country’s stance on the issue thus far, it is vital as young adults that we remain cognizant that we will be inheriting the issues of today.