North Korea is a small blip on the map. But the attention it receives on the international stage is entirely out of proportion with the nation’s geographical stature. Although the landscape may seem insurmountable and endless to visiting travelers and soldiers alike, in actuality, the national boundaries pale in comparison to its two giant neighbors.
Likewise, the brinkmanship displayed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong- Un is entirely out of proportion with the interests and needs of the planet. The escalating rhetoric out of the White House is actually taunting common sense by dangling the possibility of thermonuclear war. In an April 28 Reuters article, Trump said: “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely.” On April 30, he Tweeted: North Korea is looking for trouble” and encouraged North Korea’s neighbor China to “solve the problem.”
As gratifying as this saber rattling is to many in his base, the president would be wise not to underestimate the military capability of North Korea. Not only do they possess a nuclear deterrent, their masses are indoctrinated with a prophetic worldview that makes war with America inevitable. Ample evidence suggests that many North Koreans would welcome American intervention-and defectors have shared stories of an internally demoralized populace- but the vast majority are being prepared to fight to the end. With modern weaponry involved, as well as cyber and biological attacks, It will be a catastrophic bloodbath that will eclipse the death toll of the first Korean War by millions.
Simply put: a land invasion of North Korea would be an unfettered disaster for both countries and the region.
Is North Korea a menace. Absolutely. The nation’s track record is dismal in the area of human rights. But the most effective way to engage people in dictatorships is to show them why liberty and equality are enviable values. Rather than a policy of “strategic patience,” cyber-attacks, economic pressure, and the threat of war, why not try something new and interesting like creative diplomacy? Why not trade with North Korea? Why not negotiate for peace with North Korea? Why not make North Korea a business partner? Isn’t that what you are good at, Mr. Trump? Why do American interests need to inherently conflict with the interests of North Korea? This is a nation that is in the dark. Why not work with China, Japan, South Korea and Russia to help bring them into the light? Why must we all succumb to the darkness together?
This is what I mean when I say creative diplomacy. Estimates of mineral wealth in North Korea run to $1 trillion in rare earths, coal and potential oil assets. There are gigantic supplies of marble, granite, gold, coal, iron ore, and copper. Based on some sources, North Korea may have the most uranium on the planet. With the proper intention and effort the United States can assist the North Koreans to develop these industries in a way that has a direct benefit on the people of this isolated and often desolated country.
In other words, what if President Trump engineered a new Marshall Plan for North Korea which had as its sole purpose the enhancement of their country’s natural resource extraction, storage and distribution? Creative diplomacy is the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and effective way that stimulates the imagination and generates goodwill. A strong and vibrant North Korea could be a magnificent boon to the United States if our companies, universities and private citizens are the ones helping to build their infrastructure. If President Trump truly wants to have influence in this region, this is one way to do it. Work collaboratively and strategically with China and the other regional powers to make North Korea open for business. Again, nothing is more effective in combating a dictatorship than the promotion of free enterprise and the genuine exchange of ideas.