The situation on the Korean Peninsula had entered a new phase under President Donald Trump, explains a leading geopolitical analyst.
The North Korea situation has remained largely unchanged for decades, with both peace and conflict as unlikely outcomes. North Korea’s accelerated nuclear and ballistic missile developments and the Trump administration’s determination to resolve this issue have changed the dynamic, making either outcome much more possible, Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer told Business Insider.
“There’s a real possibility that Trump could actually say to the North Koreans, ‘I’m prepared to meet with Kim Jong-un,’ and there could be a real breakthrough,” Bremmer said. “If that happened, he gets a Nobel,” he added, noting that in this case “there is no question” that a Nobel prize would be much more deserved than the one former President Barack Obama received.
Trump said early last month that he “would be honored” to meet the Korean dictator, but only under the right conditions. Other administration officials have indicated that North Korea would need to begin a path towards de-nuclearization.
“There’s also a real possibility of a war,” Bremmer said. Trump has signaled, without drawing any specific red lines, that the U.S. will not allow North Korea to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of striking U.S. cities with a nuclear warhead. However, North Korea is developing missiles at an accelerated pace.
The North recently tested the new Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile, which some observers suspect could be the technological predecessor or even a stage of a future liquid-fueled ICBM. Before he took office, Trump responded to Kim’s New Year’s address, in which he claimed that North Korea was close to testing a long-range missile. Trump tweeted, “It won’t happen!”
The North has launched a dozen missiles this year, three of which were new weapons systems, rapidly advancing the reclusive regime’s ballistic missile program. North Korea has revealed several ICBM mock-ups, but it has yet to test one. Experts agree that North Korea is still several years away from developing this type of technology.
The president and other administration officials have also repeatedly stated that, while the U.S. is relying heavily on China and international sanctions, all options are on the table.
“Ultimately, either the U.S. backs down and accepts this continued, slow deterioration of the status quo, or the U.S. does something,” he explained.
The U.S., for instance, could strike North Korea, which Bremmer describes as “hitting a box.” He explained such a course of action is pretty dangerous because no one knows for sure what will come out of the box. “There’s a real danger that over the course of a Trump administration the U.S. will be at war with North Korea and that millions of people in the region will die,” he remarked. “I do not say that lightly. I think it’s possible. I do not think it’s likely. But, it’s not 1%.”
The likelihood of major military confrontation, he added, was significantly lower five years or even one year ago.
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