The world indeed is a funny old place. It always amuses me listening to people who have never ventured further than Torremolinos spouting forth on international issues. Best of all is listening to people who've never visited a totalitarian country giving their informed opinion on countries such as North Korea. Even more interesting is how most haven't bothered to read a history book. The Korean War saw the largest number of UK casualties in a foreign war since 1945. As such, it should be clear that any conflict has the potential to affect the UK. North Korea has now got a nuclear capability and is allied with China, the worlds third largest nuclear power. Many pub bores seem unaware that the Korean War never ended. There is a ceasefire, but hostilities never formally finished.
There are a few key facts that we need to consider. It should be clear to anyone who can read a map that North Korea is never likely to be a regional expansionist threat. Of course they pose a threat to South Korea, but with the South in alliance with the USA, this is highly unlikely to materialise. To the north, they have China, who are their allies.
It is clear that the weapons they are procuring are defensive in nature as the latest member of the Kim dynasty knows that any first use would see the destruction of his regime. Key to Kim's thinking is what happened to Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. Whatever he is, he's not stupid. Who sees that a weather forecast is predicting a hurricane, cancels their insurance? Kim knows the U.S. Would love regime change. He knows that his only ace is his nuclear arsenal.
The North Korean regime is repressive, authoritarian and repugnant. The South has a far higher standard of living. The North is stuck in the Cold War, whilst the rest of the world has moved on. Many say 'why doesn't China just sort Kim out'. This is obvious to anyone who knows China. They see the USA as the biggest threat to their own ambitions. If Korea was reunited, following a regime change, it's pretty clear China would have a major U.S. Ally on its Southern border. As they push their Indo-Pacific expansionist plans, North Korea is a useful regional ally. Modern Chinese history shows that the rights of citizens are not respected. The Chinese can play a long game. The Chinese leadership know the longest a U.S. President can last is eight years. No matter how good or bad, every eight years everything changes. It is easy for us to forget that it is less than a year since Obama was president, but this is key to the thinking on Beijing. The Chinese know that Trump is a time limited phenomena. Sooner or later, it will again be all change. The Chinese leadership can plan their agenda over decades.
So my advice is to have a look at what China's long term agenda is. They see North Korea as a vital ally. I suspect the Chinese are bemused by Trump. They will do what they always do. They will sit back and see how the situation develops, waiting how best to secure the maximum advantage for themselves. Trump has blustered and blown about how China must reign in Kim, but has failed to spell out any reason why this could benefit China. The Chinese meanwhile, are developing economic and military capability across the Pacific region and Africa. They know that whilst the US is obsessing on Korea, they are consolidating their role as the preeminent global power of the 21st century. I suspect that American historians, in 50 years time, will be none to kind on Trumps legacy. I suspect, the current North Korean situation will not even warrant a footnote. The real story will be how the U.S. had a shambolic regime that threw away its global reputation.