Last week President #Donald Trump learnt that North Korea will demand its share of his attention when it carried out a missile test during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the #United States. While the dysfunctional dictatorship is not a true military rival to the world’s superpower, it does complicate the chessboard that is Asia.

War

North and South Korea are two artificial states that were created to try and settle issues at the beginning of the Cold War. The Korean War that was the first failure of these resolutions was a de facto conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union as confirmed in recent years when the active military role of Soviet fighter pilots in the fighting was revealed.

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Since then the situation has only become more complicated at South Korea and China became economic empires and the three generations of Kim dictators keep their population poor to finance their own exaggerated lifestyle.

The regular reports of executions and now the apparent assassination in Malaysia of #kim jong nam, #Kim Jong-un’s half brother and presumptive heir has shown that the Kim family keeps its population cowed by terror.

Nuclear ambitions and China

This formula of disruption has been made even worse by #North Korea’s ambition to become a nuclear power. These ambitions have even worried its ally China which seems to be distancing itself from the unpredictability of its neighbour.

Although China itself has added to the unpredictability with its military expansion and the creation of artificial islands and presumed military bases in the South China Sea, it does not have the open aggressiveness of the North Korean dictator.

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In fact, the apparent assassination of his half brother may be cause to believe that he wishes to extend his influence outside the borders of his besieged country.

Parallels?

In many ways the situation of North Korea is similar to that of the region of Bosnia-Herzegovina at the beginning of the 20th Century which was one of the contributing factors of the Great War. It is a disruptive force that conditions the behaviour of its neighbours.

Nobody knows what will happen in Pyongyang in the near future and thus President Trump and Secretary Tillerson must be prepared for all possibilities, but one thing is certain, they must be careful in how they play their cards.

The presence of China at North Korea’s border and the possibility that North Korea may have developed, or about to develop nuclear weapons means that China must be a part of the solution. The Chinese giant is now undoubtedly not only a major diplomatic player and therefore opponent to the United States; it is also a major factor in counteracting the possible actions of Kim Jong-un.

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The United States would do well not to act alone in regards to North Korea, but together with those countries at risk from potential North Korean belligerence, beginning with China. Otherwise, like Bosnia-Herzegovina, the risk is that North Korea will become the fuse that makes the Asian powder keg explode.