Make no mistake: North Korea leader Kim Jong Un truly believes he needs nuclear weapons.
For years, that need reflected a single objective: the protection and maintenance of his regime. A nuclear arsenal was a defensive tool — a deterrent — to ensure that no foreign power would attack his country and end the Cold War division of the Korean Peninsula. Kim’s rationale for possessing nuclear weapons seems to be shifting and his rhetoric and accompanying military developments indicate a new focus — the acquisition of a war-fighting capability.
In Monday’s Japan Times, Gabriel Dominguez argued that North Korea wants nuclear weapons to “offset its weaknesses against the superior conventional military capabilities of the United States and regional allies Japan and South Korea.” I’m inclined to a more ominous explanation. Kim wants nuclear weapons for coercion. It looks as though Kim has resurrected his grandfather’s dream of unifying the whole of Korea under Pyongyang’s flag — and nuclear weapons will assist him in that quest.