In a fascinating article for the New Yorker, Evan Osnos described a recent trip to Pyongyang, where, among other things, he talked at length with senior officials of the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s Institute for American Studies. What struck me most was how little even these officials understand about American politics, culture, and attitudes. And, of course, this ignorance and misapprehension is reciprocated in the Trump administration, which, besides other shortcomings, has not yet nominated an assistant secretary of state or defense for East Asian and Pacific affairs.
The United States could deploy an impressive array of military forces designed to persuade Kim not to attack us or our allies. In other words, we can mount an effective deterrent. The South Korean government, which otherwise advocates peaceful détente between the two countries, announced on Tuesday that it was creating a “decapitation unit”—a special brigade whose sole mission is to kill Kim in the event of war. The Seoul officials announced this publicly because the very knowledge of this brigade could have a deterrent effect on Kim’s actions.