Is North Korea Going to War?

Published on
October 23rd, 2017
19 minutes

Is North Korea Going to War?

Think Piece ·
Featuring Paul Krake

Published on: October 23rd, 2017 • Duration: 19 minutes

As soon as President Trump was elected, the first thing that would happen in Asia, according to Paul Krake, was that North Korea would play up. That prediction was spot on and Paul presents his take on the current situation on the Peninsula, with the perspective that investors need to know, along with some nuances around how China, Japan and the other players in this delicate situation might respond. Filmed on October 23, 2017, in London.


  • JF
    Jennifer F.
    10 November 2018 @ 07:01
    North Korea have a a good Gold Deposit, Rare Earth Minerals and Coal core, not far from the Chinese border. I can't see with Chinas desire for gold , that they will not ensure there interests in those are harmed in any way.
  • WM
    Will M.
    2 December 2017 @ 19:15
    Good overall perspective although Paul kept talking about NK obtaining nuclear weapons. NK already has several (up to 12) bombs according to the think tanks.
  • RO
    Robert O.
    25 November 2017 @ 18:35
    It seems that China preventing NK from obtaining nuclear weapons is the best choice for China and the region. If NK does obtain nuclear weapons as Paul Krake suggests then China will likely face both SK and Japan obtaining nuclear weapons to create the old mutually assured destruction scenario from the cold war. The problem with this is the close proximity of all these potential nuclear powers (China, Russia, India, NK, SK, Japan) creates a potential exponential (or combinatoric) function for disaster. The risk grows something like 6!/(4!2!) for an opps moment, where an initial mistake results in a conflagration response. One potential solution for China would be to use its military to support a NK military overthrow of the NK government. This would be financially supported by SK, Japan and the US to address the anticipated humanitarian crisis and rebuilding of NK. The bribe to the NK military would have to be big enough warrant the risk and China (Xi) would demand complete loyalty of the new NK military leaders. China would then be the local policeman for the region with a guarantee of a non-nuclear SK and Japan. China could also work out a deal with the US for a much smaller US presents in the region since NK would no longer be an issue and the US could see some cost savings in its military policing activities.
    • JC
      John C.
      2 December 2017 @ 13:15
      The problem with your scenario is that it's a huge win for China (despite them being the genesis of this horrible situation) while the US loses all the way around in terms of power in the region. An alternative scenario would be for some sort of multi-lateral 'declaration of war' against a rogue state whereby the Japanese, Chinese and South Koreans divvy up North Korea into some kind of DMZ. Or something along those lines that just gets Kim out of power. The Chinese still get a lot out of North Korea - maybe less than before, but NK is still a useful ally and protector of their northern flank and also a huge distraction for their rivals Japan and South Korea.
  • dm
    dude m.
    19 November 2017 @ 23:44
    North Korea a "rogue" country? I think calling the U.S. a rogue country would be a better description.
  • Sv
    Sid v.
    28 October 2017 @ 19:57
    You are very wrong about Trumps public approach. the only possible approach to the NK is to freighten them with the idea that Trump is crazy enough to bombard them. No other approach has brought them to the table. Surely you understand the difference between public and private posturing.
  • Sv
    Sid v.
    28 October 2017 @ 19:44
    NK knows that with out nuclear weapons he is dead, al la Qaddafi. Iran knows this too.
  • RM
    Robert M.
    28 October 2017 @ 03:11
    Humans are plainly nowhere near evolved enough toward consciously peaceful living at a society level to have nuclear weapons. At the smallest stresses in living standards, the third monkey collectively becomes belligerent and mean and of course warlike. The obvious action in response to this crisis is to initiate a process of total removal of all nuclear and all other WMDs from the world and the permanent, transparent/ open monitoring of that. Of course this is almost totally impossible given the corporatist media and the corporatist control of the US congress and the corporatist capture and dumbing down of the minds of the citizenry from saturated, multi generational advertising into 'consumers'. That leaves the first action of an individual being to undertake the education of themselves in the various traditions of peaceful living including christianity, buddhism, hinduism and of course the refinements and insights of and into such from our western humanist and scientific traditions (eg: the biological mechanism of the fight/ flight response in the amygdala which dominates our emotions and thus actions and the need as Ray Dalio has said, to increase our capacity for reflection, which resides in the prefrontal cortex). The second action of the US individual (for example) can then be toward reforming US democracy away from its current corporatist kleptocratic capture. Our actions not limited to charity, should start at home if they are to be powerful and enduring.
  • MM
    Mario M.
    26 October 2017 @ 03:48
    Can someone give examples of what a "contained NK" means? For the US and for China?
    • SC
      Steven C.
      27 October 2017 @ 22:54
      I agree this question needs a response. It is disingenuous of Krake to suggest this fuzzy solution without explaining what it really means.
  • HJ
    Harry J.
    26 October 2017 @ 16:00
    Do we want to have a knife at our throat at all ? You know Irack will be next. Two countries that scream death to America! Sooner or later we’ll have to deal with both threats. Wish all you want but
  • YN
    Yessir N.
    25 October 2017 @ 18:12
    Average thinking, just following the narratives. NK is a vasal state of China. China gets great value out of the relationship at a low price. It gets "Sparta" to defend its North Eastern border. NK is like having a crazy rabid dog that follows your orders but you can release it on your rivals and say to everyone the dog is crazy and we can't control it. You won't let anyone put the dog down or hurt it. Its a wonderful offensive and defensive tool for China.
    • SG
      Sam G.
      26 October 2017 @ 07:06
      Every significant player in East Asia, plus the US, is getting incredible value from North Korea. Every time there is sabre rattling, ratings at home (China, Japan, Korea, the US) go up dramatically and politicians can conveniently brush key domestic issues (high and increasing levels of inequality, rapidly ageing populations, high underemployment, stagnating wages) aside. In my view, everyone benefits from the current state of affairs. Koreans, in particular, are pretty cynical about the whole situation. Every time the mainstream media (KBS, SBS, MBC, Yonhap News) start to inordinately focus on North Korea nukes, they know something at home is going on.
  • DD
    Donal D.
    25 October 2017 @ 07:01
    I thoroughly enjoyed the video and most (though not all) of the commentary that followed. Just a totally out of the box idea. What would the reaction be if China decided to invade N. Korea and essentially turn it into a Tibet type of colony? The US has been screaming for China to do more so would they really care and even if they did what would they be prepared to do about it? Equally I'd say the average N. Korean would be better off under Chinese rule than with what they have today. BTW I'm by no means condoning Chinese action in Tibet just using it as an example
  • MS
    Matt S.
    23 October 2017 @ 15:41
    Countries like North Korea and Iran just should be stopped at all cost from obtaining nukes - if that means dropping one on North Korea first.... so be it. There is NOTHING inevitable about North Korea getting nukes if you have an iron will.
    • EB
      Eric B.
      23 October 2017 @ 17:54
      Amen. Conspicuous by its absence was any mention of the fact North Korea has broken every previous agreement they've made, why would anyone expect them to hold up their end of a new one? The argument South Korean causalities would be so high that America should agree to let North Korea develop their nuclear capabilities to the point they can inflict the same type of causalities on America is insane, from an American point of view. Newsflash Americans would rather kill with huge collateral losses than get killed. War is coming very soon.
    • MC
      Michael C.
      25 October 2017 @ 04:25
      Really? Do you have nay idea what the collateral damage will be? He is not building the weapons to use them. He is building them to guarantee his rule continues as he sees it. They will be keenly aware that they control a pretty small piece of land and can be wiped out if they make a first move strike. So your answer is to cause millions of deaths in South Korea. What sort of an ally is that?
  • FW
    Francis W.
    23 October 2017 @ 14:51
    Jim Rickards believes that N. Korea's end game is the invasion of S. Korea. Do you have comments on that? Also key seems to be China's comment that if N. Korea attacked, China would not defend N. Korea, but if US attacked, China would defend. Thoughts?
    • MO
      Mike O.
      24 October 2017 @ 22:35
      I think that North Korea rightly views (from their perspective) that they will inevitably control all of the Korean peninsula, irrespective of South Korea's views (or anyone else's). I think China rightly views (from their perspective) that they will control all of the South China sea and its islands (whether they be the Spratly islands or man-made) irrespective of the views of Vietnam or the Philippines (or the US for that matter). The art of diplomacy is to advance your own self interests and / or thwart the advance of the interests of potential adversaries with as skillful maneuvering as possible (i.e., with as little brute force required as possible). I would like to hear more about how this is all playing out as it would be be of interest to me in any discussion of the ongoing tensions in the area.
  • GF
    George F.
    23 October 2017 @ 16:24
    "4:42 "If a missile were fired at Tokyo it would be the Americans that would shoot it down." If the US or Japan had the capability to reliably shoot down NK missiles they would have done it already for demonstration purposes. THAAD, even if it worked on single missiles, would not be able to handle a barrage of missiles and decoy missiles. What should be noted is the US military likes living and working in South Korea and Japan. Compare Japan with say West Virginia. I don't believe the US military will risk their lifestyle not to mention their lives.
    • BF
      Brad F.
      23 October 2017 @ 22:54
      Shooting down a test missle would be a declaration of war, what you say about THAAD may be true but I think that kind of direct action would probably lead to a direct conflict.
    • MO
      Mike O.
      24 October 2017 @ 22:17
      As to whether shooting down a test missile would be a declaration of war or not, it should first be considered whether any action is justified against North Korea in blatant violation of a UN Security Council resolution (see: Is military action a justified response to a violation?
  • SD
    S D.
    24 October 2017 @ 02:13
    Any discussion of N.Korea has to be framed in the context of proliferation and the US-China rivalry and that's why it's so difficult. Ultimately this is South Korea's problem and China's responsibility, and it's not realistic to say containment is the only option or preferable to a collapse of the N.Korea regime. Of all the bogus regime changes that the US has pursued in the past 50 years, N.Korea is the one that's most justified. That means a plan is required as part of an agreement on non-profileration, and that requires coordination and cooperation between US-China. The problem with the current discussion is that it occurs against a backdrop of US military adventurism (pretty much all of it failed) and strong resistance to missile defense. N.Korea is a real problem, and a real solution is required. Nuclear and fissile materiel is flowing out of N.Korea into Pakistan and Iran which means it will have found its way to non-state actors, so while the risk to the US remains secondary in all likelihood, that risk is real and the US is right to attempt to initiate action to control this problem. It's important to recognise that there really is no military solution to this problem, just as it's important to remember that this is South Korea's problem and China's responsibility. The US needs to be involved at a higher level while allowing regional players to pick up the baton as they evidently wish to do in other parts of their own region, eg the S.China Sea. And so the more important question becomes, how does the US respond when China either fails or refuses to contain the regime to an acceptable level?
    • DS
      David S.
      24 October 2017 @ 03:19
      China, North Korea and the rest of us need to be concerned with North Korea selling nuclear material to a terrorist. Some terrorist may not care who is killed in a nuclear explosion including themselves. Containment of North Korean nuclear material in North Korea should be China's first step. DLS
    • PK
      Paul K. | Contributor
      24 October 2017 @ 09:19
      Sarah, I would agree this is South Korea's problem in a conventional weapons sense but was their long range missile capability grows, it increasingly becomes a Japan problem, an Asia allies problem and eventually, a US problem. We are not there yet. Comparisons to the Cuban Missile Crisis are flawed because there is no mutually assured destruction capability. Enriched uranium falling into the hands of non-state actors is the bigger concern for me.
    • MO
      Mike O.
      24 October 2017 @ 20:40
      I wonder if the point regarding US-China rivalry may limit the true scope of this problem, where it would really need to be viewed from the perspective of each of the parties involved to show the extent. At least the perspectives of each of the players could be examined at some greater depth to get a proper overall perspective than this video has done, perhaps you would agree? At least that was my first impression after viewing it. The video did a good job providing some of N. Korea's perspectives, and some good points regarding the views of some of the surrounding countries and the current politics involved as well. However, with all due respect to the comment regarding US military "adventurism", the US has been pretty successfully advancing its world hegemony up until now. And, strategic alliances with countries like Japan and South Korea likely require that challenges to US authority do not go unanswered in order to preserve that position. China, for its part, would no doubt love to see the US falter as it would provide an opportunity to extend their influence in the region. Russia no doubt would also see benefit to this as well. South Korea, and Japan to a lesser extent, may feel like they are dancing in a ballroom with elephants and just trying to avoid being stepped on. So, what is in the strategic interest of each of these parties (and not just the near term), and what is at risk? These were some of the thoughts that occurred to me. Of course a video of that nature would have to be much longer and may not be suited to the interest of those who prefer a snapshot of where the tensions currently stand and what are the politics and potential short term outcomes involved, which I thought were pretty well covered in this one. Anyway, I enjoyed the video and found the information helpful.
  • JM
    John M.
    24 October 2017 @ 15:57
    Great discussion, thanks. What would the benefits/consequences be of targeting Kim Jong-un personally?
    • PK
      Paul K. | Contributor
      24 October 2017 @ 18:03
      By targeting do you mean militarily or financially? Militarily is tough as he, like most despots, if surrounded by the most heightened security. It took years to get Gaddafi or Saddam Hussein and that's with coalition forces on the ground. Financially is different as targeting the regime, if targeting him directly. This is going on and will only get more intense over time.
  • WT
    Will T.
    24 October 2017 @ 00:13
    This is one of the worst video's real vision has ever published. This is no more insightful then reading the Economist, and the regular statement of "if the North Koreans obtain Nuclear Weapons" is just strange.
    • PK
      Paul K. | Contributor
      24 October 2017 @ 09:26
      Hi Will, it would be wrong for me to accept the high fives and not address those who think the piece is the worst in the history of Real Vision. It isn't even the worst one I have done. I did a 45 minute interview with Raoul where he didn't tell me that my collar was tucked under my jacket. The lengths that man will go to be the best looking man in the room!!! Anyway, love to hear your thoughts on the debate and appreciate the critique.
  • CS
    Chris S.
    24 October 2017 @ 08:13
    My understanding was that North Korea's aim has always been to attack South Korea and unite a socialist Korea. In my view North Koreas's development of nuclear weapons has the sole objective to put off other countries from intervening in a potential attack on South Korea. Would be interested in your thoughts about this.
  • GO
    Gary O.
    24 October 2017 @ 04:17
    Thank you for the info. I personally think that the US will not invade North Korea for fear of China. China did say that they would not tolerate a invasion if Kim did not start it first. Just like elementary school where you had your boys to back you up. No different. It would be USA suicide if they did invade.
  • DG
    Don G.
    24 October 2017 @ 01:02
    Interesting piece. It would be nice to know how to trade around this situation.
  • DB
    Darko B.
    24 October 2017 @ 00:00
    NK is not what this is all about. The truth is that the US needs and wants NK as a cover to tighten the noose on China. China knows this hence their support for NK. The last thing China wants is US bases on it border.......but it near as much makes no difference as they are so close anyway. Air and sea provide at least a better buffer to a full scale land invasion. China and Russia are the only countries that prevent the evil people hiding in dark spaces in the US from going full retard and assuming control of the whole planet. All of us normal folks are focused on the "red hot" issue, and fail to understand that "red hot" issues are simply there to get our attention while the "real issue" plays out. Just like a pick pocket that touches you in a strange place to focus your attention while he slips your watch off. Humans are pretty stupid, the sooner your see this the easier life will become. If you don't believe me, just look around.....there is plenty of evidence. "They" know this, hence why they can do what they do all over the planet and the people just wave their arms around pretending to know what they're talking about. But hey......don't believe me.........look for yourself.
  • BF
    Brad F.
    23 October 2017 @ 23:02
    Paul, thank you for your thoughtful piece, there was a good hour of content in that 18 minute video. I agree with all your points on the motivations of the major players with regards to WMD. What I do not understand is the motivation for the sabre rattling we have seen recently. I’m not sure who started it all, was it the US or NK? I can see that Trump needed to change the story in the media with his Russia problem dominating the headlines, so poking this hornet’s nest would make sense. Perhaps KJU needed to flex his muscles to show strength and keep his party in line so he poked the US for a similar reason? If anyone hasn’t listened to the Adventures in Finance podcast featuring Harald Malmgren on this topic you should definitely put it at the top of you play list, it is one of the most interesting RV interviews I have heard to date, and it is free.
  • jS
    jurgen S.
    23 October 2017 @ 11:19
    From memory Jim Rogers stated that China has told the US that if they attack N Korea that China will support NKorea is this fact?
    • BF
      Brad F.
      23 October 2017 @ 22:52
      China has stated it will support NK if the US makes the first move but it will stand aside if NK makes the fist move. It is unlikely China will get involved, if the US wishes to invade it will probably provoke a first move from NK so that its retaliatory response appears justified, right out of the Israeli playbook in the occupied territories.
  • SN
    Steve N.
    23 October 2017 @ 22:19
    Thank you - excellent piece and well crafted with five different international view points. I never really thought outside just two (US and China). Would like to know the potential Russian point as that was left hanging....
  • PB
    Pieter B.
    23 October 2017 @ 21:17
    Great piece! Thanks a lot!
  • BJ
    Bruce J.
    23 October 2017 @ 20:29
    It was repeated several times “if they obtain nuclear weapons”. Hasn’t that been a fact for several yesrs?
  • JM
    John M.
    23 October 2017 @ 19:32
    The nuclear club keeps growing.
  • VP
    Vincent P.
    23 October 2017 @ 19:06
    Real Vision has "risen from the dead" on this one! Awesome, I knew you could do it! Very sobering presentation but necessary to keep focused on potential for terrible consequences world wide. There is an economic element here but not for me to discuss in great detail because I couldn't explain it, lol. One has to wonder if the recent silence over there is the "calm before the storm" or there's been a temporary solution not yet exposed. Time will tell. Trump is a loon and is most unpredictable at best. Is it really up to the US Generals to keep this thing tamped down??? We'll see. Again, great video!!!
  • TM
    Tony10 M.
    23 October 2017 @ 18:39
    Has the thaad system ever shot down multiple rockets at once?
  • JS
    Jim S.
    23 October 2017 @ 18:33
    While I agree with Mr. Krake's premise - that there are no good options at this point - I am disappointed that there is little discussion of how movie plays out beyond frequently recommended "containment" conclusion - as if that is a stable path forward, with likely results far preferable to other (lousy) options. Perhaps a more thorough discussion of what a "containment" world of KJU looks like would better inform the audience (& perhaps experts)? i.e.: If NK retains offensive delivery systems, Japan & South Korea are highly likely to arm themselves with nukes, but China would not "allow" that. How does that play out long term? NK nuke capabilities do nothing to solve the disaster that is their political/economic system - do experts think an unstable regime will be stabilized by offensive military capabilities (has it ever happened)? If not, what are their next demands & how do those play out? How does any of the above impact the other ongoing example (Iran) of the last 20+ years of the US whistling past the graveyard? I do not claim any options are great, but I am constantly disappointed that thoughtful analysts do little to explore the long term ramifications of containment recommendations - it's always about how bad the other choices are likely to be. Perhaps I would be more convinced of containment's preferability if they did...
  • GC
    Gary C.
    23 October 2017 @ 16:28
    Trying to imagine the mass exit of NK folks to China, any chance SK would take any? Paul, if KJU is eliminated by CIA, does military try to run NK, or does US support a puppet
  • CC
    Charnes C.
    23 October 2017 @ 16:26
    "What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?" Explosion
  • PN
    Philip N.
    23 October 2017 @ 15:03
    A few disjointed thoughts. The South Korean government was largely dysfunctional during the Park Guen-Hae impeachment. Moon Jae-In was elected in May. IMHO those events diminished Korea's role in the response to the NK nuclear and missile tests. I think this is also relevant. [Herald Interview] ‘Seoul not as vulnerable as it seems’ While I can see that it would be difficult for Kim Jong Un to give up nuclear weapons after sacrificing so much as a nation to get them. I am not convinced that a NK with nuclear missiles that can hit US soil is something the US is willing to accept. Especially under the current administration.
  • WE
    William E.
    23 October 2017 @ 14:10
    Similar to national debt, social security and medicare.... kicking the can down the road and hoping everything will “work out” increases the problems, limits your options and magnifies the downside! T
  • EH
    Eric H.
    23 October 2017 @ 13:50
    Real concise and fruitful info. Great stuff on a bad situation!
  • MA
    Michael A.
    23 October 2017 @ 12:03
    Yes, very well explained and summarised. This is coming from someone who knows very little about the geo-political tensions in that region.
  • PV
    Peter V.
    23 October 2017 @ 11:35
    Very well explained and presented. Thank you!