What will prevent the North Koreans from nuking the US?

The evil nature of the US is a fundamental article of faith. It is the excuse to keep 1,1m North Koreans, almost 5% of the population, under arms. It is the stated reason for all the suffering the North Koreans have to endure. It is the stated reason behind the development and use of nuclear weapons. All of North Korea’s hardships are the fault of the USA, but once the great enemy is vanquished, heaven would descend on Earth.

South Korea’s “Gangnam Style” PSY’s past outbursts towards the US calling for Americans to be killed weren’t expressed in a vacuum either, the articles of faith of the north resonate in the south as well as they do globally e.g. in North Korea’s strategic ally Iran. One can notice that Chinese and South Korean culture are slowly being introduced in the north, the movement in the opposite direction however is apparent as well. North Korea reminds many conservatives in the area of the benefits of the rigid nature of their own societies not so many generations ago.

I agree that the North is rogue enough to attack without provocation, and may even do so by default. The question is one of triggers and consequences, not justification.

China’s role is hugely important. Many in the military leadership (which at one time was as doctrinary as that of North Korea) may welcome the demise of the US. The mad North Koreans are far enough removed for the Chinese for the latter to have very plausible deniability. A nuclear attack on US cities carried out by the North Koreans will be utterly asymmetrical to the response. Depending on the nature of the attack, China may come out on top with only minor damage. However, a real defeat of the US would leave the Chinese economy in ruins, world shipping lanes in chaos and world markets disconnected so the civilian leadership in China has a huge stake in keeping North Korea from launching. But it is China’s schizophrenic nature that has helped get the North this far.

I wasn’t until very recently aware of how fast North Korea is changing but it is unlikely that this has affected the leadership; Kim’s dad and Kim himself have been exposed to the hilt to US culture and values, it hasn’t made an impact. Surely they are aware of the ridiculous image in which they are portrayed in the US, that probably is not very helpful.

As for Barack Obama’s foreign policy, flying bombers over South Korea is Tough Mr Obama Sticking It To Republicans In Congress. One wish he didn’t feel he still has to prove his mettle or saw the world so almost exclusively through domestic glasses. Now more than ever would be the time for the US and China to underline their shared interest in the global order.