06:27 GMT +326 March 2017
    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un uses a pair of binoculars to watch live ammunition firing drills.

    Did North Korea Go Crazy or Is it Something Else?

    © AP Photo/ KCNA via KNS
    Get short URL
    Andrew Korybko

    North Korea has legitimate security concerns, but its unilateral behavior is making an already trying geopolitical situation much more difficult for Russia and China.

    To the passive news recipient, it seems like North Korea has lost its marbles and is on a one-way path to self-destruction, taunting the world with military threats and just begging for the US to bring it some good ol' "democracy."

    On the surface of things, Pyongyang’s recent spate of missile launches and its earlier nuclear test reek of desperation and look like clearly aggressive provocations, but peel away the carefully constructed and decades-existing mainstream media myths about North Korea, and the reality is a lot different.

    Kim Jong Un is justified in viewing the US as a threat, but the problem is that his comparative lack of experience has mixed with his position of supreme power to create a destabilizing combination where well-intentioned but naïvely thought-out responses are unwittingly undermining Russia and China.

    Into The Mind

    Leadership Analysis:

    It’s useful to objectively analyze Kim Jong Un’s leadership style and personal psyche in order to gain a better understanding of what drives the North Korean leader’s actions. This approach isn’t novel in any way, but is just another application of the common practice that’s regularly undertaken by the world’s intelligence agencies.

    The purpose of the exercise is to peer into the mind of a key decision maker and identify what makes them tick, with the practice being most pertinent in centrally administered systems where major policies are decided by only a handful of people. Since Kim Jong Un is the undisputed supreme leader of North Korea, the art of leadership analysis is more relevant towards him than anyone else.


    For the sake of brevity, there’s only enough time to touch upon the most significant international and personal factors that impact his decision making. North Korea is still technically in a state of war with the US, so unprecedentedly large-scale joint military exercises between Washington and Seoul, especially those which partially aim to simulate “beheading missions” or “decapitation strikes” against him personally, are rightly interpreted as a serious and provocative threat. On top of that, the US has a track record of destroying countries that don’t have the military-strategic means to adequately defend themselves, such as non-WMD Iraq and Libya. For these defensive reasons, Kim Jong Un retains his country’s nuclear and missile programs and flexes them at appropriate times to deter realistic threats. 


    On an individual level, Kim Jong Un is a very young leader and has scant prior experience with any sort of administrative responsibilities. In the dark world of North Korean politics, he’s forced to prove his worth and solidify his position as his father’s political heir, knowing that there are likely certain party and military figures that are offended that a young man such as himself surpassed them all to become the country’s top figure. This political (and physical) survival imperative compels him to act forcefully and speak toughly, but his youthful temperament and apparent distrust of most senior advisors mean that his actions aren’t always wisely nor efficiently undertaken. Kim Jong Un’s irresistible urge to flamboyantly prove himself in the face of his aggressors while simultaneously thumping his chest as the alpha male of his country is a glaring psychological vulnerability that the US has identified and is actively exploiting. 

    The Geopolitics Of “Containment”

    To put the current tensions into a broader context, the US is waging a New Cold War against Russia, China, and one could even include Iran into this mix, whereby it’s maneuvering its strategic capabilities in Europe, East & Southeast Asia, and the Mideast in order to “contain” each of these Great Powers respectively and tighten the unipolar noose around Eurasia. The US is less physically aggressive against Iran nowadays because it’s prioritizing a long-term and ‘soft’ approach to regime change there, hoping that an influx of cash and Coca-Cola will help shape the country’s burgeoning youth population into ‘good Westernizers’ that will steadily ‘reform’ their multipolar system from within.

    Regarding Russia and China, however, the US has pulled out all the stops in destabilizing and then militarizing their peripheries, ergo the manufactured Ukrainian and South China Sea crises. As geographic ‘luck’ would have it, both countries have overlapping security interests in North Korea, which thus makes it a convenient target of the US’ aforementioned strategy. By provoking Kim Jong Un with nakedly aggressive actions and having already psychoanalyzed how he’s anticipated to react to them, the US can prompt North Korea to respond in such a way that it triggers the Pentagon’s preplanned escalatory counter-response, in this case the prospective deployment of THAAD anti-missile systems to South Korea.  

    In better comprehending how North Korea forms the perfect strategic wedge between Russia and China, it’s necessary to review the geopolitics behind the US’ ‘containment’ of each in this part of the world. From north to south, the US is colliding with them along an expansive arc that stretches through the following geographic theaters and frozen conflicts:

    Russia: Arctic Ocean, Kuril Islands, North Korea

    China: North Korea, Taiwan, South China Sea

    As can be seen, North Korea is the southernmost security concern along Russia’s eastern periphery just as it’s the northernmost one along China’s, thus confirming the strategic ‘interlocking’ role that it plays in bringing together the two countries’ grand interests. Correspondingly, it follows that the insertion of destabilizing American influence in or around North Korea, such as the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea, would equally and just as adversely impact on each of these Great Power’s security, which explains why it’s viewed as a major strategic threat to each of them. 

    Extrapolating further and recalling what was written at the beginning of the article, Kim Jong Un’s predicable reactions to American aggression which unwittingly ‘justify’ the US’ preplanned and escalatory moves are thus also seen as a danger to the existing strategic balance in Northeast Asia. After all, if the North Korean leader didn’t take the ‘bait’ and go overboard with his responses, then the US would have a lot more difficulty convincing the South Korean public of the need for something as provocative as THAAD, which, it must be reminded, directly puts them in Russia and China’s crosshairs in the event that a disastrous state hostilities breaks out between their countries and the US. 

    Well-Intentioned But Naïve

    To return back to the article’s thematic question, North Korea’s testing of nuclear and missile capabilities doesn’t make it “crazy”, but it does make it irresponsible in the grander scheme of things. Like was earlier written, North Korea has concrete security reasons for why it would want to flaunt its deterrent capabilities, but unwittingly, Kim Jong Un’s muscle flexing is feeding into the US’ prearranged scenario of strategic escalation against Russia and China in Northeast Asia.

    To be clear, North Korea has the right to defend itself using its existing capabilities, especially when considering the tragedies that had previously befallen Iraq and Libya and remembering the existing legal state of war that’s still technically in force between Pyongyang and Washington. The issue though is that the country’s youthful and inexperienced leader is behaving irresponsibly and against the overall interests of the multipolar community when he unilaterally partakes in nuclear and missile tests.

    He knows these actions, however justified they may be from a self-defense perspective, run counter to UN Security Council resolutions and will put his Russian and Chinese partners in a tough diplomatic position, yet he still does them anyhow without any regard to their larger interests.

    Kim Jong Un might be drunk with naiveté in thinking that he and the few advisors that he listens to know more about global geopolitics than Presidents Putin and Xi do with their inarguably more experienced diplomatic crews, but whether he realizes it or not, the US is playing him like a fiddle and using his foreseeable reactions to advance its preplanned anti-missile containment strategy against Russia and China.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.


    Russia, China Against North Korea's Ambitions to Develop Nuclear Weapons
    N Korean Nuclear Missile Can Reach Continental US - Northern Command
    Seoul is Considering THAAD Deployment Amid North Korean Threat
    Kim Jong-un, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK)
    Community standardsDiscussion
    Comment via FacebookComment via Sputnik
    • Сomment
    • avatar
      ronin reply toFlorianGeyer(Show commentHide comment)

      After reading your scenario on what would take place if a US city was hit by an act of war, that is the rioting and mayhem, I went to work and called my insurance agent. My State Farm agent says that we would be protected in such an event. My family and I were so relieved when we heard this. Although this may sound like an ad for State Farm (is is not), however it is all about the agent making the policy holder feeling cared for and safe.

      I did not ask him if we were covered by a bomb, if that were to happen. Need to call him back.
    • avatar
      quemadoinstitutein reply toterryjohnodgers(Show commentHide comment)
      terryjohnodgers, hello. I see Saddam Hussein as a man who was primarily concerned with running his country successfully, from the several books by investigative journalists I read on the subject at the time. I was not getting any of my information from the mainstream media, so I may have a different impression than many people. What I found curious about your comment was the implication that Saddam was engaged in "deceptive strategy". How was he trying to deceive, anymore than any other world leader tries to deceive, or indeed many ordinary people try to deceive in order to survive? What exactly were his deceptive practices, and where did you get this information? Thanks for commenting.
    • FlorianGeyerin reply toron(Show commentHide comment)

      The main issue is of course not whether one is insured against criminal damage ( I am relieved that your insurer said that you would be) but what would you do in the town. state, country was terrorised by ' Mad Max' gangs ? It would be quite conceivable that the US could degenerate into a Libya type situation.
      Also if you were in an area where gangs ruled , it would be likely that civilians would be raped, robbed and murdered at will.
    • avatar
      ronin reply toFlorianGeyer(Show commentHide comment)

      My apologies if I sounded serious, I was being facetious.
    • FlorianGeyerin reply toron(Show commentHide comment)
      I always enjoy reading your comments.
      Many comments here are very 'close to the bone' and in reality could become reality ! As yet we have not had too many zio-trolls which is welcomed. Mind you, the comments on this forum are, in the main, well thought and written and the trolls get short shrift here.

      As we know, a zio-troll uses derision, bullying,foul language and multi attacks by their teams to bury comments that 'do not fit the zionist narrative'.
    • avatar
      ronin reply toFlorianGeyer(Show commentHide comment)
      Hi FlorianGeyer,

      I do understand your point about Trolls. My point was to add an element of humor via a silly scenario, like that of a use car salesman, real estate/insurance brokers/agents will do most anything to increase sales quotas (bordering legal and criminal contracts), like they did with the housing debacle backed by the credit default swaps which firms like: AIG, Wallstreet and Fannie Mea, to name a few, participated.
    • avatar
      terryjohnodgersin reply toquemadoinstitute(Show commentHide comment)
      quemadoinstitute, thank you for your response. My point in 'strategic strategy' being that Saddam placed too much faith in his U.S. 'master's' teachings while failing to see the bigger picture that the U.S. and the West was playing within the middle east.

      Are you aware of Otto Skorzeny's role (devoted Nazi) in the middle east after the second world war?

      Saddam Hussein came to power through the 'usual means' (coups, plotting and assassinations) within a tribal dominated landscape whose borders had been drawn up by western interests. Brutality mixed with cunning strategy mostly worked for those middle eastern dictators who were favorably looked upon by those same western interests, as in Saddam's case.

      BTW, I have nothing personal against such people who only know one rule in their world which is the iron fist for those who step out of line in any Muslim dominated state or country because the iron fist is all that the devout Muslim understands and will bow to.

      I do not take my sources which I believe are propagandized from any main stream source - although I do read some MSM sites - much of what I have learned comes from my own research via books, internet etc.
    • avatar
      terryjohnodgersin reply toZran67(Show commentHide comment)
      Zran67, all good points you make. People are made up in character in many different ways. Stalin was the perfect example of a psychopathic dictator that many from the West, including Churchill, found hard to deal with because Stalin gave nothing away while those like Churchill came to place far too much faith in Stalin's words. Even Kruschev, a renown Soviet hardliner, had some words to say about Stalin's excesses.

      My point is, bluff that is not backed up by something that your opponent is not aware of and can be used to defeat him is just rhetoric. That is where a good poker player can win through diplomacy, however, if the bluff is called
      as Stalin did to Truman when Truman hinted at using the atomic bomb against Russia if Stalin decided to go ahead and invade Japan, then that which was used to bluff has to be put to use, and so the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima was used to deter Stalin's over reaching.
    • avatar
      terryjohnodgersin reply toRandall Lee Hilburn(Show commentHide comment)
      Randall Lee Hilburn, it is the delivery systems that NK is working on and the so very public exhibitions of them flying through the atmosphere that is sorely tempting to some to be rid of this rogue state once and for all. Putin can see where all this may lead and both Russia and China now back sanctions which will only hurt the people and not the state. Iran is a keen player with NK and is assisting NK in further developments of aggression that is entirely predictable.

      Watch for hundreds of thousands of North Koreans fleeing into China for 'protection' that is a favorite tactic of the NK regime. China does not want the pressure of possibly millions of North Koreans invading so the pressure on China is mounting to do something.

      NK has always been a sore point with the Chinese, so maybe that invasion that Putin was hinting at will occur?
    • avatar
      Kim remembers US regime's insane carpetbombing of NK people,not that long ago.
    • avatar
      Just for discussion purposes let's suppose that the opposite is true than is laid out in this analysis. Let's say the DPRK's goal is to further the stress already straining the major powers relationships, thereby causing a major crisis. The DPRK after the fall of the USSR and China's sell out to the west views both countries as abandoning the DPRK to the US/South's whims. Knowing full well that on it's own the DPRK would cease to exist, it would only be a matter of time. If you consider the sudden ideology gap along with the strategic vulnerability this created the DPRK is making a very loud and direct statement not so much directed at the US/South but at China and Russia. That statement is; if you think you can just walk away and throw the DPRK under the bus as a casualty of the multipolar world you are sadly mistaken. Especially after using the DPRK for 50 years as a buffer with not even a thank you. Any small nation like the DPRK who can have all three major powers heads spinning with frustration and angst is not naïve or crazy at all. Each major power is in fear of a confrontation in Korea that will guarantee a world war. This makes the DPRK safe, much safer than if they did not stir the pot. Until the DPRK gets what it wants from these powers i.e. security guarantees normalized relations and the end of sanctions look for more nuclear tests, missile launches and finger poking in the eye's of the big three. The DPRK's geographic location assures if their is any hostility by the US both China and Russia will be forced to respond or face a hostile force on their doorstep. It is a risky game but it is the only game left to play for the DPRK.
    • avatar
      in reply tohopscotch64(Show commentHide comment)
      hopscotch64, I totally agree with you. I'd like to just add my comment on the article. -- Mr. Andrew Korybko has a right to criticize North Korean's reactions. But it can also be said that his reckless reaction is also unwittingly feeding into the prearranged scenario of 'West vs. BRICS'. What if the 'youthful and inexperienced' leader's reactions were intentional ones against Russia and China?
    • avatar
      A fabulous article.

      hopscotch64: the other possible result of escalation that is seen as primarily attributable to NK is NK being invaded under UN mandate.
    • avatar
      hopscotch64in reply tobee(Show commentHide comment)
      bee, Any invasion of the DPRK would be illegal under the terms of the UN Charter. Both China and Russia have condemned the US illegal invasions of nations. So it would be very hypocritical for these nations to now invade a country without a direct attack by the DPRK on them which is never going to happen. No. I think China and Russia no matter how displeased with the DPRK would have to take military action if the US invades the DPRK.
    • avatar
      hopscotch64: When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, Germany's Schroeder was - publicly at least - more critical of it than Putin, and China said squat. NK is objectively more of a threat than any country the US has invaded since WW2. It's more likely that to preserve their interests and prevent NATO crawling up its ass, China, with Russian support, just might invade from the North. This would have the secondary objective of removing NK as the stated incentive for the complete remilitarization of South Korea and Japan, starting - as Mr Korybko pointed out - with a missile shield, but - this he left unstated - what good's a shield without a sword? Even without a nuclear Japan (nuclear breakout being a matter of weeks for them) total Japanese cooperation in missile tech would be a shot in the arm for the US' first strike cruise scenario.
      Unless of course China can guarantee the NK regime security in exchange for good behavior. But I have a sneaking suspicion that that's been tried and failed.
    • avatar
      hopscotch64in reply tobee(Show commentHide comment)
      bee, You see that is the paradox of the situation. There is no easy way to resolve the conflict. China and Russia are no longer calling the shots in the DPRK due to the reasons I outlined in my original post. China will not invade the DPRK and Russia even more so. As far as the US missile shield (THADD) is concerned the US would have deployed it under a different context anyway. The systems deployment has been under discussion with the South for several years now. South Korea has resisted the deployment because it knows it will not make the South safer but will in fact make it a priority target of both Russia and China and make reunification now an impossible dream. If China has a problem with this deployment then it would be in China's interest to promote the peace treaty the DPRK has been after for decades and end the Korean War not institute sanctions and punish the DPRK for a situation they themselves created. The Chinese have no one to blame but themselves for the situation on the peninsula. The notion that China and Russia would invade the DPRK fly's in the face of both countries commitment to the rule of law in international relations, especially China's stated policy of resolving disputes through dialog not war.
    • avatar
      Well, they certainly have the USA surveillance above them and that isn't any news.
      Could it be that the North Koreans just wanted to remind USA of the moon landing of '69 by using a rocket?
    • Skevin
      Nixon's "madman theory" was designed to terrorise the "ennemy" (ennemy beeing a sticker glued on any country the USA decided to agress). There is a second theory: the "error theory" which pretends that everytime USA commit one of its prefered crime as in Vietnam, Chili, Afghanistan... this is just because their leader (generally the president) made a mistake and so practically every president is stupid incompetent... (The result beeingalways millions of dead in other countries). Now there is this guy, Kim Jong Un, who decided to imitate this unacceptable behaviour practized by US from more than one century. Beeing practised by a small country which does not control the mainstream press, most people understand better the indignity of this gangsterlike behaviour and the humour of president Kim Jon Un who,after all, though a dictator, did not succedded in killing as many Afghans Iraki, Syrian, Vietnamese, indonesians, Nicaraguyans... and so on, than the greatest democracy in the world.
    • avatar
      I am really perplexed. What has North Korea ever done to any country in the world other than the fact that they are not willing to kiss anybody's ass or bend over and get screwed by the US or any other country? Can any sane person who has not been brainwashed by the media and all this government propaganda answer that simple question?
    • avatar
      A pull out of US forces in South Korea would send North Korea a good message. Anyay, The South Korean economy is 10 times bigger than the North Korean and its population is twice as large, so they have means enough to defend themselves...

      Without US military bases, North Korea will not have an excuse for its nuclear defense...even if they would say Americans left as a consequence of that.

      So, Russia and China should be mediators to get at the same time Americans out of the Korean Peninsula and the end of the North Korean nuclear program. They should be an insurance about protecting the sovereignty and security of North Korea.
    Show new comments (0)