IntroductionSince it’s inception on September 8th 1948, North Korea hasprovided a tough political situation for neighbouring countries and enemies ofthe state alike. The 38th parallel acted as a post World War 2border between the two established Koreas – The Peoples Democratic Republic ofKorea and the Republic of Korea, which were formed after the Soviet Union andthe US could not agree on a government for a United Korea. (Buzo,2002) After the borders were re-drawn after theKorean war in 1953, relations between Korea and the outside world have been edgyand tedious. Conflict between the United States and North Koreahas always been prevalent due to the clash of ideas of a democratic andsomewhat liberal state and a totalitarian communist state respectively.Tensions have however reached an all time high, spiralling into a crisis ofmissile threats and sour relations.
Given accumulation of years of faileddiplomacy and North Korea approaching the ability to launch an intercontinentalmissile that could reach the US (Releases and View, 2017), threatsfrom past decades are a reality for those in the Western world. SovereigntySovereignty, defined as “Supreme power or authority.” (Oxford2017), is the foundation upon which states arebuilt. Although sovereignty can be defined in various ways when involved withinternational relations, it is the real control exerted by the authority withina state, the ability for proper jurisdiction within a state, recognition byother states and the giving up of power to directly influence the sovereigntyof other states. (Krasner, 2001) (McGlinchey, 2017b) Sovereignty becomes relevant to the current crisis with the North’s mostrecent missile tests over Japanese territory. (U.S.DoD, 2017) Whilst Japan was not physicallycosted anything by the test, Japan as a sovereign nation under the classicalthoughts of sovereignty should have the self-determining right not to have thesemissile tests carried out over Japanese territory.
North Korea can test theseideas of Westphalian sovereignty for strategic use. It can be said that in North Korea breakingthese traditional rules of international law to show that North Korea is notwilling to be governed by international law and the conventional paradigms ofconflict in modern international relations. Not following these accustomed”rules”, it makes North Korea somewhat unpredictable and more of a threatthrough that uncertainty. Whilst a conflict between nuclear powers on bothsides hasn’t occurred since the Cuban Missile crisis, the general sentiment forthose states armed with nuclear weapons is to avoid their use at all costs, theNorth Korean regime testing these limits of international law can be inferredto that they are making a statement through these tests.
Not only does North Korea use the complexityof sovereignty as an offence in the current crisis with the unwillingness to”play the game” – sovereignty is also relevant to the North Korean regime as ameans of defence of their ideals and their operations in the crisis. Sanctions,following the Japanese tests, were placed on the North Koreans to incentivizethe North to stop their aggressive foreign policy and retract development ofthe nuclear program. (Un.org, 2017) The UN sanctions were deemed a “violent violation of our sovereignty” bythe Korea Central News Agency in Pyongyang. (Aljazeera,2017) In the UN challenging the development of theNorth Korea missile program, the North Korea government is, in turn, able totake the right to self-determinacy aspect of traditional sovereignty as a valuethat must be reciprocated by those who would stand for it in the first place.North Korea can argue that any sanctions as a result of North Korea’s actionsare a challenge to the country’s sovereignty and thus are not justified.
Whilsthypocritical given North Korea’s challenging of Japanese sovereignty throughthe missile tests, North Korea can justify to its people that it’s actions arein defence of the idea of the state itself. Given America’s history related tothe cold war and relevancy of Realist theories to the Cold War, the NorthKorean government is able to extend the idea that America is simply trying toexpand its sphere ‘soft power’ and is challenging the idea of the PDRK state asa whole. In arguing that the US is an outside power trying to control andattack the values of North Korea, the North Korean government is able to playon the concepts of an enemy to a state – and bolster within on the concepts ofnationalism. NationalismNationalism, whilst encompassing manydifferent ideas is at heart promoting the social, political and economiccultures of a given nation and of that given nation’s interest of maintainingself-governance. (McGlinchey, 2017) The North Koreangovernment has developed an extensive doctrine of promoting a North Koreansense of nationalism and makes a prolific effort to uphold this promotion ofnationalism through multiple disciplines. The use of strict law enforcement regardingcriticism towards North Korean governance and its history, mass organised demonstrationsof North Korean culture and history, and the militant use of propaganda tosimultaneously smear western values that would clash with those of the NorthKorean government form up large parts of this promotion. Nationalism in North Korea combined with theattacking ideas from outside the borders is key for the long-term efforts ofthe North Korean government to maintain its rule and crucial in the conflictagainst the West and their allies.
In promoting this sense of North Koreannationalism, and the intrinsic communist values key to the state, the North isable be one of the last bastions for true communism left in the world. In theformation of a sense of ‘unity’ of the DPRK’s people, Kim Jong Un is able tomaintain power through public support, bolstered by promoting the idea that theUS would seek to and divide the people them destroy the North’s values. Whilst often criticized by Socrates,Democracies’ problem was a lack of informed voters, else being controlled bythose who would manipulate the masses, however, in this case of dictatorshipsas in North Korea, the system relies on a misinformed population to maintain control.
(DavidStraub, 2017) Given the levels of poverty andthe corruption really within the country, it is unlikely that were the people tohave the same information as the government that Kim Jong Un would remain thestates’ leader for long. (Unsdsn.org, 2012) Kim needsto continue the promotion of these totalitarian communist values to maintainpower and the fight against the west. In order for Kim to maintain his grip ofNorth Korea in the long run, he will need to lift the sanctions against hiscountry to prevent riot against rule, stop the possibility of a coalitionattack between the enemies he’s made were his missile gambit were to fail, andwould certainly need to focus inwardly more than leave his people to rot. Peaceneeds to be drawn amongst the current crisis, however diplomacy has been trickyhistorically and has only shown signs of getting trickier. DiplomacyIn international relations, diplomacy is theprocess of communication between states.
(McGlinchey, 2017c) Diplomacyis relevant to the crisis over North Korea, given the potential for massdestruction given the military implications for both sides of North Korea and theUS, a de-escalation peace talk is necessary for the better of both sides of theconflict. Diplomacy in the context of the North Korean crisis specifically isparticularly relevant given the North’s relatively inelastic position in thetalks. A major component of the resolution for thediplomatic situation would be bargaining. Achieving peace would be a submissionof some ends of the deal; North Korea may have to give up it’s nuclear program,alternatively the US may have to be curbed to what degree it can influence theNorth from afar. Malleability to North Korea is somewhat unfeasible. Inpartaking in the bargaining end of Diplomacy, it would require Kim Jong Un tocede the ideas of the supreme absolutism of the government, if it was shownthat the PDRK was not under total control, Kim could start to lose a grip ofhis people. The only way for the North Korean government to secure a deal thatworks for the long-term control of the current regime is through a form ofdiplomatic or military total victory. Similarly, diplomacy is incredibly hardlargely due to the United States’ aggressive and absolutist stance on the NorthKorean diplomatic situation.
The ‘hard ball’ take from the United Stateslargely comes down to the disarmament of the North Korean nuclear program.Russia was recently claimed to say that the United States actually missed a keyopportunity in the space of time where North Korea had rolled back theirtesting of the missile program, and that actually peace talks couldn’t be heldat all due to the United States demanding that the situation could only beresolved if the North Korean nuclear program was completely abandoned. (Ft.com,2017) Furthermore, the recent election Donald Trumphas created a large problem in alienating North Korea and the Chinese alike. Chinais North Korea’s number 1 trading partner (Atlas, 2017), and a crucial part of North Korea’s economy and survival for theregime in the long term.
Historically, the Chinese came to the defence of thePDRK in the Korean war, and continues to support North Korea by trading with itdespite sanctions from the UN. (Chen,1997) The US needs China’s support in puttingpressure on the North – not playing North Korea’s potential game of “mutuallyassured destruction” in taking the military route. Donald Trump made asignificant part of his campaign leading up to his election alienating Chinaand viewing economical “enemy” of America.
In times where the US needscooperation from its allies rather than division to, the US needs to revaluateit’s stance on China for the next months and years to secure peace. Sovereignty and nationalism remain key aspectsfor the discussion around the North Korean relations crisis, without managingto navigate the North’s dangerous diplomatic game. Whilst tweeted insults like”short and fat” and “rocket man” when being used to describe Kim Jong Un (Twitter,2017) may do nothing than further close diplomaticties, diplomacy remains a key issue to the crisis and the only way for eitherside to come out of the conflict without further loss to credibility, or humanlife.