The bad news first.
The world is as close to nuclear war as it has been since the Cuban Missile Crisis, more than 50 years ago.
Now, here’s the good news: there’s still a long, long list of reasons why we should sleep soundly at night.
- It’s suicide for North Korea
If Kim Jong-un were to launch any form of attack on U.S. land, it’d be a death wish. The U.S. militia is so advanced, there’s little to no chance of any North Korean strike being successful.
On the other hand, President Donald Trump’s much-debated ‘fire and fury’ response would, in all likelihood, be just that. The U.S. had roughly $18.56 trillion in GDP. North Korea has $40 billion. The U.S. had around 6,800 nuclear warheads in 2015. North Korea had 10.
Politics, and by extension war, is a numbers game, and North Korea is outmatched so comprehensively that to declare war on the U.S. would be political suicide, and for all the talk of Kim Jong-un’s instability, history shows him as a politician at heart, with the health of his regime paramount.
2. China holds the cards
China accounts for roughly 90 percent of North Korean trade. It is almost single-handedly in control of North Korea’s financial security. This week, it implemented U.N. sanctions on the rogue nation, banning imports of iron ore, iron, lead, and coal.
Conversely, North Korea rates as China’s 82nd largest trading partner. If North Korea’s leadership is as unhinged as many fear (more on that soon), China would quickly intervene. Just last week, it warned North Korea it will not protect it should it be the one to fire the first shot against the U.S., and vice versa.
This just adds to the first point; with no support from its number one backer, any form of attack by North Korea is foolish on all levels.
3. Both sides have done this before
Much of the conflict’s heightened tension in recent times has been attributed to the leaders on both sides: Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. Both are prone to making absurd statements with little to no intention, or ability, to back them up.
Much like previous scenarios with the two, both have made aggressive statements, and both look like they’re beginning to back down and opt for diplomacy. Case in point: this morning, North Korea positioned its missiles to be ready for an attack on Guam, the order from Jong-un the only thing standing in the way of a potential war.
Still, the report released by Jong-un stressed that, before making any decision, he would watch ‘the foolish Yankees’ to see what they do, seemingly putting a pause on any imminent attack. Trump, on the other hand, has continually stressed, along with his administration, a diplomatic solution is heavily preferred to the alternative.
Trump, at his core, is a businessman. He is running The White House as such, and dealing with conflict similarly. There is nothing to be gained from a trade or relationship standpoint by annihilating North Korea against the wishes of China. On the other hand, Trump would be willing to negotiate with North Korea because negotiation is what he sees as his (pardon the pun) trump card.
There’s certainly reason to be nervous. Words and actions on both sides of this feud have escalated at a rate not seen previously. But, judging by the politics at play, and the personalities of the men in charge, there can be a tendency to overstate how close we are to conflict.