Friday, May 5, 2017

Media Appearance: "The Korean Peninsula's Other High-Stakes Drama" on the Atlantic

Here is my latest contribution to the Atlantic. How will the liberal Moon Jae-in, who is leading the polls by a significant margin, get along with Donald Trump in handling the nuclear North Korea? A snapshot:
This reveals an important lesson about the relationship between Seoul and Washington where Pyongyang is concerned: Despite different levels of rhetoric and posturing, the end result does not change much when it comes time to take action. The fundamental, if unspoken, rule in relations between North Korea and South Korea has always been the same: Localized provocations will yield a response, but no one—not even the most saber-rattling of leaders—wants full-scale war. On North Korea, the hawks are never entirely hawkish, nor are the doves all that dovish.

I have always thought that this round of "crisis" with North Korea has been vastly overstated, particularly by the non-Korean media. For anyone who has been observing the Korean Peninsula for more than just a few years, it is plain that this is business as usual. Contrary to popular belief, Kim Jong-un's North Korea is neither stupid nor irrational. They are responding rationally to their perception of the external conditions--and their response, in all likelihood, does not involve a war.

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