By Pete Garcia
A little over two years ago, I penned an article entitled “The Hermit Kingdom” which talked about the secretive and belligerent nation-state of North Korea. My opinion then was North Korea would not survive the decade without regime change. Regime collapse speculation has been ongoing since Kim Il Sung died in 1994, but as the old saying goes… a broken clock is still right twice a day.
My belief then was based on the increased information flow into the kingdom via a thriving black market economy, movies, thumb drives, and cell phones are exposing the world to a new generation of North Koreans. My view was once the general population got news and information about the outside world, this would inspire an upwelling of discontent. Although the population is still in great fear of their tyrannical leader, we do know from defectors that “law and order” are beginning to break down outside of Pyongyang proper. Guards and police are starting to look the other way. Vendors who once worked in secret selling their black market items, now sell openly. Kickbacks, bribes, and quid-pro-quo are becoming the norm. This is similar (in a way) to the conditions Eastern Europe was a decade or so before the Iron Curtain collapsed.
Adding to that is the fact that Kim Jong Un (KJU) is the weakest, craziest, and least popular of the three autocratic leaders who have run North Korea for the last 69 years. His father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung also had a much better standing with their national benefactor China than he (KJU) currently does. Had Hillary Clinton won the election last November, North Korea probably would have limped into the 2020s economically broken but armed with long-range nuclear missiles. This, because the Clinton’s have long had their hand in China’s pocket for the last two decades and would not want to damage that financially beneficial relationship over something like North Korea’s nuclear arms program.
But after eight years of neglect under the Obama Administration, there is a now a laser-like focus back onto North Korea under President Trump. In a way, this may be a continuation of what the then-President Bush called the Axis of Evil (Iraq, Iran, and N. Korea) in his 2002 State of the Union address. He set a plan in motion to contend with these separate but intertwined entities. Other geo-strategic scholars and thinkers included Syria, Al Qaeda, and Hezbollah into this growing axis, but we have seen how this has been filling out over the past 15 years. The US policy (at least from a military and intelligence perspective) was to disrupt and destroy state sponsors of terror.
President Bush: Launched two-front war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. Set strict economic sanctions on then Kim Jong Il’s North Korea
President Obama: Withdrew from Iraq (allowing for ISIS to become) and minimized our footprint in Afghanistan making our efforts there virtually meaningless. He also encouraged the Arab Spring and ignored the Green Revolution in Iran. Also supported the Iranian-Nuclear Deal which all but guaranteed Iran the ability to produce nuclear weapons within a decade
President Trump: Conducts first strike on a Syrian airbase presumed to be the point of origin for the use of chemical weapons. Issues general warning to North Korea that their actions are unacceptable and consequential. Notifies China that the US may take action with or without their help or consent
The continued survival of North Korea’s government is based on its ability to harness absolute terror against its population, its possession of nuclear weapons, and its access to economic resources. Although North Korea requires all three of these to survive, contradictions between what it takes to secure each will make the regime’s demise all but inevitable over time. (Source)
The difference this time with a Trump Administration is that we now have over two decades of evidence marking both action and inaction, harsh economic sanctions, empty rhetoric, and numerous military exercises, all of which have failed to thwart North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. (See for timeline) Mainly, that from 1993 onward, North Korea has aggressively advanced in developing both a nuclear capability and a means to deliver that payload (short, medium, and long range missiles) despite everything (short of war) to stop it. US policy in the past was centered on using China as the agent of leverage with North Korea, but as it turns out, our agenda is not their agenda, and thus, North Korea has had no real incentive to quit.
“We have 20 years of diplomacy and sanctions under our belt that has failed to stop the North Korean program,” one senior intelligence official involved in the review told NBC News. (Source)
Timed for maximum effect, President Trump informed visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping of the Syrian airstrikes just after their dinner this past week at Trump’s southern command of Mar-a-Lago. The Syrian airbase airstrike was the first time the US had directly targeted Bashar Assad’s forces and infrastructure. Furthermore, Pres. Trump and Sec. of State Rex Tillerson each announced that if China were unwilling to partner in reining in North Korea, the US would act unilaterally if necessary. “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will,” Trump told the Financial Times (Source). Regarding the then upcoming meeting with Pres. Xi Jinping, Trump added-
“Yes, we will talk about North Korea,” Trump told the newspaper for a story that appeared Sunday on its website. “And China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do, that will be very good for China, and if they don’t, it won’t be good for anyone.” (Source)
But both that announcement after their dinner, and the silence of not telegraphing our intentions, swiftness, and violence of the Syrian airstrike (59 Tomahawk missiles is a bit of overkill) was meant to send a strong message to North Korea that its days of mischief were over. Also conveyed in the strike, was the idea that the US was no longer waiting on China to help. There is a fascinating article that lists out why specifically China is not enthusiastic about reining in North Korea economically.
As Beijing sees it, the consequences of cutting off economic ties and precipitating the fall of the North Korean regime would be disastrous. Either the result would be complete chaos, with millions of North Korean refugees crossing the Yalu River into China’s depressed North Eastern provinces, or it would be a successful reunification led by South Korea, an eventuality which would in time lead to the emergence of a new American-allied economic powerhouse, complete with US military bases, right on China’s border. (Source)
So China’s concerns about the fate of tiny North Korea, at least from a geopolitical standpoint, merits some consideration. They like things the way they are now. A divided Korea means less threat on their immediate border. Likewise, the poor and impoverished in North Korea are their problem, not China’s. But if North Korea does collapse, how does it happen? Pres. Trump’s Administration is actively seeking a way to do this.
The Trump White House, through the National Security Council, asked for blue sky options in early February, a senior official told NBC on background. “Think big,” the official said that the agencies were instructed. Many proposals have already been abandoned, but on the military side, sources say, the three options with the highest impact still constitute the next steps. (Source)
Those options thus far are:
Option 1: Deploy nukes back to the Korean Peninsula (reverse the 1991 “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” which the North has already violated
Option 2: Assassinate KJU and decapitate the Senior N. Korean leadership
Option 3: Cripple infrastructure and North Korea’s ability to move missiles with strategic attacks
If the US or South Korea assassinates Kim Jong Un: To our knowledge, does not have an immediate blood-heir to Kim Jong Un himself thus would require a brother, sister or other relative to fill in. This has two effects:
- If the assassination were done in a public or semi-public event, this essentially squashes the belief that the Kim’s are divine, thus shocking (hopefully) the population back into reality.
- An immediate and untimely death of Kim Jong Un without an heir would destabilize the entire power structure within North Korea, possibly leading to an internal civil war amongst the leadership.
If KJU own inner circles assassinate him: It has long been speculated that KJU suffers from a form of paranoid schizophrenia. Thus far, he has personally ordered the assassinations of dozens from within his inner circles, so it may behoove someone close to him to strike first preemptively.
Why is Kim killing so many high level associates? I think the real reason is that Kim suffers a paranoid disorder. This psychological sickness usually begins in early adulthood as Kim. Classic symptoms of a person with paranoid disorder include: (a) suspicion, without sufficient basis, that others are exploiting, harming, or deceiving him or her; (b) preoccupation with unfounded doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of associates; and (c) feeling threats from benign remarks or events. Kim most likely suffers also from schizophrenia by not being able to assess the reality as is. (Source)
What I think will happen though, is a combination of two and three. We’ll call this blue sky option #4. This calls for:
- Propaganda campaign putting a bounty on Kim Jong Un’s head (destabilize and feed into KJU’s already out-of-control paranoia)
- Unprecedented Cyber first wave attack on Pyongyang itself
- US and South Korean Special Forces units, aided by high altitude drones and satellite support, conduct strikes taking out critical infrastructure and prison camps
- Bombing campaign targeting North Korea’s extensive network of artillery that is currently aimed at the South
- Long range bombing runs and naval strikes taking out key infrastructure, tunnels, and defensive positions
The missing piece of the puzzle is how to action this option without interference or drawing in China. As the aforementioned issues present serious concerns to China, there may be a way to do this while sidelining China as a direct participant. But first, we realize that waiting on China to come to its senses before North Korea goes fully nuclear, is not an option. Been-there-done-that. China would want some iron-clad agreements beforehand if we were to notify them an impending attack. It would seem NOT in our best interest to let China know ahead of time, as they may convey that to Kim’s regime and make matters worse. If the US does collapse N. Korea through any of the options previously mentioned, these could be up for grabs:
- The US agrees not increase its military footprint on the Korean Peninsula north of the 38th Parallel
- The US decides to give China more flexibility regarding their South China Seas territory expansion plans
- The US agrees to remain hands-off with Taiwan
- The Finlandized Option
Any one of the three (or a combination of the two) would be pretty tempting for China to abandon North Korea over. I do not expect that we will ever agree to abandon Taiwan, but stranger things have happened in the past, so we cannot rule it out completely.
You might be wondering how this all ties into Bible prophecy? Well, we know a few things for certain pertaining Asia and the end times. The first of which is that the Rapture of the Church will force a global restructuring around the world. How and what that looks like is uncertain, but we know that there will be an alignment of ten kings/kingdoms that the Antichrist eventually assumes control over. We know that after the Rapture, the Seal Judgments allow for the introduction of this man Antichrist (Revelation 6:1-2). He is followed by the rider on the Red Horse (vs. 3-4), which introduces a period of intense global war. Third, we know that the Kings of the East (Daniel 11:44, Revelation 16:12) (presumably led by China) march westward to join the Antichrist and his forces. They end up participating in the battle at Armageddon only to meet their demise at the glorious return of Jesus Christ (Revelation 19).
Furthermore, as God is the one who enthrones leaders and rulers for a time and season (Dan. 2:21) it seems that seventy years is about the extent that God has allowed for authoritarian-type governments to remain in control (at least now here at the end of the age). The Iron Curtain collapsed in 1989 after 44 years of control. The Soviet Union (1922-1991) collapsed after 69 years. Both China and North Korea formed communist governments in 1949 and 1948 (respectively), which puts them right about the 70 year mark in 2017. In respects to China, as economic prosperity has flourished and produced a growing middle-class, there has been a softening (of sorts) in how China rules.
North Korea continually runs a $500M to $1.5B deficit each year. They cannot use international banking due to the existing sanctions. This limits them to dealing exclusively with China and Iran along with having to utilize the black market to raise capital it needs to fund its militaristic endeavors. This in and of itself, means they cannot sustain what they have even if the US does nothing at all. One defector equated North Korea as a square wheel that cannot roll naturally on its own. It has to be forced. (Source) With an almost certainty of an impending collapse, is it both more humanitarian and strategically advantageous for us (and the region) to know and control the method and timing of that collapse, or let it come at a time and choosing that is not our own?