The United States and North Korea have had a volatile relationship for years. Nowadays, some citizens worry that even a simple tweet could be enough to start a nuclear war with the country.
However, one nuclear policy expert, Jeffrey Lewis, who works at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, believes that North Korea’s intentions are not what they seem — and some experts agree with him. Here’s what Lewis thinks Kim is really aiming for with these weapons. (Hint: it’s not the United States.)
Kim isn’t crazy
Lewis told Business Insider that Kim’s “crazy” threats about launching intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) at the U.S. might be the purpose of his weapons, but it’s not the goal. “If I were Kim Jong Un, I would want nuclear weapons, too,” Lewis said in the interview.
Experts believe that Kim is simply willing to go to unimaginable lengths to protect himself. He’s aware that he controls one of the most volatile, most disliked countries in the world.
Next: The U.S.’s past actions lead Kim to be suspicious.
Kim doesn’t trust the U.S.’s word
Kim saw the U.S.’s problems with Saddam Hussein. He also saw that we invaded Iraq for reasons we blamed on weapons of mass destruction even though those WMDs did not exist. With that said, Kim has no reason to believe that we would not do the same to him. Even if he gave up his WMDs, he likely feels that there is no guarantee we would not invade North Korea. He’s up against a country that he believes would go back on its word.
Next: He’s even willing to do this in order to accomplish his real goal.
He kills his own people to test his nuclear weapons
North Korea has been ramping up its nuclear program over the past decade or so and has been detonating nuclear weapons inside its borders. All six of those tests occurred underground at the Punngye-ri nuclear test site. Often, the civilians in the surrounding area weren’t even told about the tests. And only the military personnel and their families were ever evacuated for a test. One refugee reports seeing bodies floating down the river, and that was their only indication that something had happened.
Next: This country might seem like another big target for Kim, but some experts disagree.
He’s not trying to take over South Korea
While it’s evident that Kim would love all the power he can get, that’s not his intention with his ICBMs. North Korea does not actually have the ability to take over South Korea. With the former being years behind the latter, South Korea is too developed and independent for Kim to easily take it over.
Plus, Lewis told Business Insider that the weapons Kim is creating are not consistent with taking over a neighboring country.
Next: Kim could be trying to follow in one country’s footsteps.
His goal: International diplomacy
It’s possible that Kim wants to follow in China’s footsteps. When China launched nuclear weapons in 1964, nobody thought it would lead to peace talks with the U.S., but it did. “The reason it happened is because the people who wanted nuclear weapons in China also wanted a better relationship with the United States,” Lewis told Business Insider.
Kim’s intentions could actually be the opposite of what the media has told us. He might want to eventually improve relations with the U.S., which means he could be following in China’s footsteps.
Next: We can’t turn a blind eye to this.
Kim is still keeping us on our toes
While experts suggest we shouldn’t jump to conclusions, we also can’t assume anything about Kim and his ICBMs. He has continued to test missiles, and has given Donald Trump various warnings that he is close to developing exactly what he needs to take out parts of the U.S. Kim has stepped up his missile tests significantly since 2014, and there is no promise that he’s going to slow down.
Next: Why do we think this country will solve all of our problems?
China won’t solve all of our problems
The U.S.’s biggest excuse for not worrying is the idea that China will solve this problem for us. China will impose sanctions. China will force Kim to slow down his nuclear program because of lack of funds. However, that is not guaranteed. The New York Times explained that while China’s nuclear program did end up opening better relations with the U.S., it can’t be denied that China was still able to create the missiles.
The Soviet Union and China were both able to create ICBMs, even though their technology lagged compared to other parts of the world. It’s important for us to understand that North Korea can do the same. But while they might be able to create them, it doesn’t mean they’re looking to use them against anyone in particular.
Next: Some experts believe we need to change our thinking.
Experts think we’re rushing into disaster mode
The U.S. has been in “disaster mode” ever since North Korea started speeding up its nuclear weapons tests, but that might not be necessary. Some experts think we should look at North Korea’s weapons with a more neutral view. Building up a nuclear weapons program might change North Korea for the better. However, it depends on what their true intentions are, which nobody can confirm.
Next: Here’s how a North Korean nuclear attack would ruin our economy.
Telecommunications networks would collapse
Think broadly here. Telecommunications encompasses telephones, mobile phones, satellites, fiber optics, telegraphs, and of course the internet. Removing all modes of communication would be a profound and crippling act of warfare in the United States. On a global level, telecommunications accounts for 2.5% of the gross domestic product. That means for every $1,000 spent, $250 goes into the telecommunications category. So the economy would take a major hit.
Next: The removal of this key element is unfathomable.
Access to money would be obsolete
The U.S. dollar is an important piece of the economy. Once Americans become unable to access that dollar, the economy takes a nosedive. Swiping a credit or debit card would no longer be possible. And withdrawing dollars from the bank wouldn’t be possible. The U.S. currency would inevitably have very little value — if any.
Next: Would your debt records be erased?
Financial institutions would crash
An EMP attack would send the United States pretty darn close to the “dark ages.” Building shields of defense could potentially protect financial institutions from losing data, but that is a measure that would have to be in place beforehand. Sure, we know what you’re thinking: Would all records of your student loans and financial debt be erased? It’s possible but not guaranteed.
Next: What would happen to the infrastructure of the U.S.?
Infrastructure would greatly suffer
In the event of an EMP, some have hypothesized that airplanes would fall out of the sky and trains would come to a screeching halt on the tracks. Is there any truth to this? That is hard to know. In modern aircraft and vehicles at large, electronic powering plays a major role. Some studies claim vehicles could glide to a stop, then be restarted. Nevertheless, your car needs gasoline or a place to plug in for power. Neither of those options would be available.
Next: Would the nation be able to support this necessity?
Crops could be contaminated or wiped out altogether
North Korea claims it has successfully tested a thermonuclear bomb, also known as a hydrogen bomb. The world braces. Keep in mind that hydrogen bombs have never been used in warfare — atomic bombs have. Hydrogen bombs are far more powerful than those of the atomic variety and would fling radioactive material all over the targeted area and its surroundings.
Crops coming out of afflicted areas wouldn’t be very appetizing and could cause physical harm if consumed. Furthermore, the farms that supply the United States with fruits, vegetables, and grains would no longer be able to feed the nation at large.
Next: This life nectar may become obsolete.
Water supplies may diminish
Water is a beautiful thing. Besides the water Americans use every day in their homes — around 300 gallons each day — water is critical to keep food growing and businesses and manufacturers moving forward. But don’t forget that water plays a major role in the United States economy. Without access to water, major industries would cease to operate. These industries include mining, agriculture, and manufacturing, as well as electricity. Without water, life and most businesses would cease to exist.
Additional reporting by Phillip Francis and Trisha Phillips.
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