Can Kim Jong-un survive North Korea's swamp?

Foreign policy and intelligence pundits spend time regularly claiming that Donald Trump is ignorant in expecting that the North Koreans will eventually forgo their nuclear threat in favor of peace and better relations with the USA.  They advance the theory that the North Koreans will offer symbolic procedures (such as the return of 55 purported American war remains) while essentially thwarting the real promises made in Singapore in June.  Past practices demonstrate evidence for this view.

In the past, the North Koreans have agreed to take American aid and end nuclear ambitions.  However, such agreements made with President Clinton and others ended with secret programs that have led to the situation where missiles were fired and nuclear tests were routine for the first year of the Trump administration.  In return, Trump initiated the aggressive Twitter behavior that the press challenged as potential nuclear warmongering.  When Trump and Kim reached an agreement, the press then started the tirade that Trump was too trusting.  Clearly, the president cannot win.

The president could always resume joint military activities with the South Koreans should the North disappoint.  Trump could also begin more aggressive moves, as he did in positioning several aircraft carrier groups in the area last year.

All this misses some issues that constrain Kim.  For the first year of his rule, he consolidated his grip on power by killing and purging former advisers of his father (Kim Jong-il), including his uncle, whom he mistrusted.  Later he had his half-brother killed in Indonesia, using chemical weapons, to eliminate a competitor.  Outsiders would see this ruthlessness as evidence of a brutal dictator and one without any conscience.  He is all that but much more. 

Kim is undoubtedly a worried and concerned person who must consider the future of his family (those he trusts, such as his sister, the head of propaganda and another brutal lovely), his own survival, and his regime's survival.  After all, personal security is always suspect in a totalitarian regime.  While the public fears his every whim, while professing its undying loyalty, he must provide sufficient inducements and luxuries for the military leaders who maintain physical control over the nation.

Kim does not possess the guns, bombs, or other equipment of mass murder.  He only manages the nation while those who do control the weaponry continue their support.

Kim's inherited dictatorship is only three generations long.  In many communist countries, rulers often leave office in coffins.  Leadership requires the support of the party leaders and military.  Only days before the Singapore meeting, Kim removed three older military leaders.  Perhaps they were not happy with his attempt to realign the relationship with the USA.

Prudence indicates that one cannot assume that Kim is honest.  Further, we cannot assume that the government of North Korea is a willing and able partner for honest removal of all nuclear testing, material, and delivery systems.  Pundits point to different definitions of ending nuclear capabilities, which they claim that North Koreans see as a freeze.  Any real progress will take many years of patience.  Clearly, Trump is not the most patient person.  This leads to some to claim that the North Koreans cannot trust any promises we make not to initiate regime change in North Korea.  In the past, Trump threatened to flatten the nation with our military superiority should it directly threaten our territory.

The South Koreans' most populous city is within easy conventional weapon attack.  The Japanese also fear any outbreak of war, as they are within short distance of missiles.  These two countries were most anxious for any cooling of hostile intentions by Kim and his regime.  The North Koreans have always felt that their future protection lay in possessing nuclear weapons.  Weaponry is also a source of cash and income for the regime.

All of this misses the essential problem facing Kim Jung-un: he has his own swamp.  The bureaucracy established by his father and grandfather for almost 70 years is dedicated to its own survival.  Kim must negotiate its alterations carefully and judiciously.  These people are likely to turn on him if they are able and prepared.  As Kim and his immediate entourage are aware, today's allies may become tomorrow's enemies.  With no orderly legal and peaceful solutions to disagreements, dictatorships often resolve their disputes through physical force or murder.  Kim must be aware of this point.

Foreign policy and intelligence pundits spend time regularly claiming that Donald Trump is ignorant in expecting that the North Koreans will eventually forgo their nuclear threat in favor of peace and better relations with the USA.  They advance the theory that the North Koreans will offer symbolic procedures (such as the return of 55 purported American war remains) while essentially thwarting the real promises made in Singapore in June.  Past practices demonstrate evidence for this view.

In the past, the North Koreans have agreed to take American aid and end nuclear ambitions.  However, such agreements made with President Clinton and others ended with secret programs that have led to the situation where missiles were fired and nuclear tests were routine for the first year of the Trump administration.  In return, Trump initiated the aggressive Twitter behavior that the press challenged as potential nuclear warmongering.  When Trump and Kim reached an agreement, the press then started the tirade that Trump was too trusting.  Clearly, the president cannot win.

The president could always resume joint military activities with the South Koreans should the North disappoint.  Trump could also begin more aggressive moves, as he did in positioning several aircraft carrier groups in the area last year.

All this misses some issues that constrain Kim.  For the first year of his rule, he consolidated his grip on power by killing and purging former advisers of his father (Kim Jong-il), including his uncle, whom he mistrusted.  Later he had his half-brother killed in Indonesia, using chemical weapons, to eliminate a competitor.  Outsiders would see this ruthlessness as evidence of a brutal dictator and one without any conscience.  He is all that but much more. 

Kim is undoubtedly a worried and concerned person who must consider the future of his family (those he trusts, such as his sister, the head of propaganda and another brutal lovely), his own survival, and his regime's survival.  After all, personal security is always suspect in a totalitarian regime.  While the public fears his every whim, while professing its undying loyalty, he must provide sufficient inducements and luxuries for the military leaders who maintain physical control over the nation.

Kim does not possess the guns, bombs, or other equipment of mass murder.  He only manages the nation while those who do control the weaponry continue their support.

Kim's inherited dictatorship is only three generations long.  In many communist countries, rulers often leave office in coffins.  Leadership requires the support of the party leaders and military.  Only days before the Singapore meeting, Kim removed three older military leaders.  Perhaps they were not happy with his attempt to realign the relationship with the USA.

Prudence indicates that one cannot assume that Kim is honest.  Further, we cannot assume that the government of North Korea is a willing and able partner for honest removal of all nuclear testing, material, and delivery systems.  Pundits point to different definitions of ending nuclear capabilities, which they claim that North Koreans see as a freeze.  Any real progress will take many years of patience.  Clearly, Trump is not the most patient person.  This leads to some to claim that the North Koreans cannot trust any promises we make not to initiate regime change in North Korea.  In the past, Trump threatened to flatten the nation with our military superiority should it directly threaten our territory.

The South Koreans' most populous city is within easy conventional weapon attack.  The Japanese also fear any outbreak of war, as they are within short distance of missiles.  These two countries were most anxious for any cooling of hostile intentions by Kim and his regime.  The North Koreans have always felt that their future protection lay in possessing nuclear weapons.  Weaponry is also a source of cash and income for the regime.

All of this misses the essential problem facing Kim Jung-un: he has his own swamp.  The bureaucracy established by his father and grandfather for almost 70 years is dedicated to its own survival.  Kim must negotiate its alterations carefully and judiciously.  These people are likely to turn on him if they are able and prepared.  As Kim and his immediate entourage are aware, today's allies may become tomorrow's enemies.  With no orderly legal and peaceful solutions to disagreements, dictatorships often resolve their disputes through physical force or murder.  Kim must be aware of this point.