How Mr. Kim Came to Declare War on the United States


Anything you can do I can do better,

I can do anything better than you.

–Irving Berlin, Annie Get Your Gun

Now that North Korea has declared war on the United States it is time for an historical analysis of how we have arrived at this state of affairs.  To do that we must go back at least one month and, for the true history buffs, back as far as 2010 when the United States and South Korea conducted exercises like the ones they are now conducting and for the buffest of all, all the way back to 1951 when members of my generation were given the opportunity to engage in prolonged stays on the Korean peninsula at no personal financial expense, a privilege still accorded more than 28,000 U.S. service personnel.  For our purposes, however a one-month analysis would seem to be more than adequate.  First a bit of perspective on the two principal players-the United States’ Barack Obama and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un.

Mr. Obama is the president of the United States who has governed the country for more than four years, has a lovely wife and two daughters. He attended school in the United States and received an excellent education that has stood him in good stead while acting as president. Kim Jong-un is the leader of North Korea, sometimes described as the “dear respected Marshal” and the “brilliant commander of Mt. Paektu.” He attended both a private and a public school in Switzerland but the pacific characteristics of that country did not rub off on him nor did his education seem to have stood him in good stead.  He has a young beautiful wife who spends little time in the western limelight.

Following his father’s death in 2011 he became the Supreme Leader of North Korea or, in some North Korean releases “Marshal Kim Jong Un, the greatest ever commander,” thus equaling if not eclipsing both his father and his grandfather.  He is a belligerent sort who has barely, if yet, attained age 30.  Here is the chronology of how it happened that Mr. Kim declared war on the United States.

It started on February 12, 2013, when North Korea conducted a successful nuclear test that greatly annoyed the United States, South Korea and others.  In response to the test, on March 7, 2013, the United Nations Security Council imposed new economic sanctions against North Korea which made Mr. Kim angry.  Accordingly North Korea threatened a “pre-emptive” nuclear strike against the United States.  The next day it cut off its hot line with South Korea and voided its non-aggression pact with South Korea.  (For a complete timeline during March see The Telegraph’s comprehensive timeline published March 30, 2013.)

Alarmed by North Korea’s unpleasant behavior, on March 19th the administration (quite unnecessarily some would say) decided to see how far a nuclear B-2 stealth bomber could fly without landing.  The plane flew non-stop from the United States to the Korean Peninsula and back, dropping inert munitions on a range off South Korea’s coast.  Some thought the administration could have used a calculator to see how far the planes could fly without actually doing it. Of course that would not have had the desired effect described by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey who said:  “Those exercises are mostly to assure our allies that they can count on us to be prepared and to help them deter conflict.”  Although actions speak louder than words it is unclear that these actions did more than words could have done.

What is clear is that the flight really upset Mr. Kim.  To make matters worse and add insult to injury, on March 25th South Korea said that if North Korea “provokes South Korea . . . . the South may respond with a military strike on [among other things] statues of the North’s nation founder, Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il.”  That plus the mock bombing raid was too much for Mr. Kim.

He said North Korea was now  in a state of war with the United States (even though the U.S. had not threatened the statues) and a statement was issued that said in part:  “Now the heroic service personnel and all other people of the DPRK are full of surging anger at the U.S. imperialists’ reckless war provocation moves and the strong will to turn out as one in the death-defying battle with the enemies and achieve a final victory of the great war for national reunification true to the important decision made by Kim Jong Un. . . . They [U.S.] should clearly know that in the era of Marshal Kim Jong Un, the greatest-ever commander, all things are different from what they used to be in the past.  The hostile forces will clearly realize the iron will, matchless grit and extraordinary mettle of the brilliant commander of Mt. Paektu that the earth cannot exist without Songun Korea.  Time has come to stage a do-or-die final battle. . . .”  This is only a short segment from a many hundred-word declaration.

In a war of words with the United States Mr. Kim is the clear winner and the United States should acknowledge defeat by withdrawing from the field of battle.  Insofar as the war of belligerent gestures is concerned it’s a tie.  One can’t help wondering what would happen if the United States and its allies withdrew from that battle as well.  We’ll probably never know.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney in Boulder, Colorado.

November 30, 2015
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