North Korea’s 33-year-old dictator Kim Jong-un is not crazy, said Dan Coats, President Trump’s director of national intelligence, at the recent Aspen Security Forum. In fact, Kim Jong-un has “some rationale backing his actions” regarding the country’s nuclear weapons. That rationale is the way the U.S. has demonstrated that North Korea must keep them to ensure “survival for his regime, survival for his country.”
Kim, according to Coats, “has watched, I think, what has happened around the world relative to nations that possess nuclear capabilities and the leverage they have and seen that having the nuclear card in your pocket results in a lot of deterrence capability.” In particular, “The lessons that we learned out of Libya giving up its nukes … is, unfortunately: If you had nukes, never give them up. If you don’t have them, get them.”
In December 2003, Libya announced that it would surrender its biological and chemical weapons stockpiles, as well as its rudimentary nuclear weapons program. In celebrating Libya’s decision, President George W. Bush declared that “leaders who abandon the pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them, will find an open path to better relations with the United States and other free nations.”
In 2011, the U.S. and NATO conducted a bombing campaign to assist Libyan rebels in overthrowing the Gaddafi government. Gaddafi himself was captured by one rebel faction, who apparently sodomized him with a bayonet and then killed him.
Indeed, North Korea’s foreign ministry said this explicitly at the time: “The Libyan crisis is teaching the international community a grave lesson,” which was that the deal to rid Libya of weapons of mass destruction had been “an invasion tactic to disarm the country.”
[Aspen Security Forum 2017]