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Kim Jong-un between Sun Tzu and Nicolo Machiavelli
Dialogue with the Alter Ego on the strange belligerency of North Korea, drafted and published on April 10, 2013

    Hence it is to be remarked that, in seizing a state, the usurper ought to examine closely into all those injuries which it is
    necessary for him to inflict, and to do them all at one stroke so as not to have to repeat them daily; and thus by not unsettling
    men he will be able to reassure them, and win them to himself by benefits. He who does otherwise, either from timidity or evil
    advice, is always compelled to keep the knife in his hand; neither can he rely on his subjects, nor can they attach themselves
    to him, owing to their continued and repeated wrongs. For injuries ought to be done all at one time, so that, being tasted less,
    they offend less; benefits ought to be given little by little, so that the flavour of them may last longer.
    Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince (see footnote *)

    All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem
    inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we
    are near.
    Sun Tzu, Art of War (see footnote **)

    Scores of foreign journalists have been dispatched to Seoul to report on the growing tensions between the two Koreas and
    the possibility of war. Upon arrival, though, it is difficult for them to find any South Koreans who are panic-stricken. In fact,
    most people in Seoul don’t care about the North’s belligerent statements: the farther one is from the Korean Peninsula, the
    more one will find people worried about the recent developments here.
    Andrei Lankov, New York Times  (see footnote ***)

Question by Alter Ego of Noah denkt™ (AE): Noah denkt™ hasn’t commented yet on North Korea’s war posturing
that is grabbing headlines these days. Why is that?
Answer by Noah denkt™ (Nd): Well, we aren’t great experts in Asian affairs.

AE: But still, you do not seem to be very worried about the tensions that have built up on the Korean peninsula.
Because, if you were, you would surely find a way to educate yourself fast on the situation there
Nd: You are right. We aren’t terribly worried about the situation there. After having read Henry Kissinger’s new
book on China
(see footnote ****), it seems to us, as if Kim Jong-un is simply following the old Mao strategy of
artificially creating international tension just for the sake of gaining attention and status in international relations.

AE: Could you expand on this a little further?
Nd: Well, if we understand Mr. Kissinger correctly Mao’s deployment of Chinese troops in the Korean War and in
the first and second Taiwan crisis wasn’t really meant to engage in sustained battle with the US forces in the
region. In fact, he was all along quite aware of the inferiority that the Chinese military had vis-à-vis the US army.
So his goal, at the time, was just to induce consternation and confusion on the part of his enemies, always hoping
that this would be enough to make the US retract from some of the more forward positions it had gained earlier on
(see footnote *).  

AE: And you believe that Kim Jong-un is just repeating Mao’s prestige driven approach here?
Nd: Well, it wouldn’t be the first time that North Korea is trying to blackmail the international community into paying
substantial funds just to keep the Korean peninsula from exploding. And it certainly wouldn’t be the first time
either that a newly installed dictator tries to solidify his hold on power by committing an early-on atrocity.  

AE: But then again, Mao was also famous for repeatedly saying that China wouldn’t be afraid of a nuclear war
since, given its size, it could easily stomach the loss of several million of its citizens. So what makes you so sure
that North Korea isn’t following the same self-destructive lunacy that Mao seemed to advocate for occasionally?
Nd: Obviously, you can never really be sure about anything. But we also know what Sun Tzu has to say about
hopeless war scenarios
(see footnote *****). And that makes us quite optimistic that North Korea won’t be as self-
destructive as the worst possible scenario would have it.

Footnote *: Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince, CHAPTER VIII: Concerning Those Who Have Obtained A Principality By Wickedness,

Footnote **: Sun Tzu, Art of War, Book 1 : “Laying plans”, Verse 18 and 19, (see:

Footnote ***: Stay Cool. Call North Korea’s Bluff, By ANDREI LANKOV in New York Times, April 9, 2013 (see: http://www.nytimes.

Footnote **** : Henry Kissinger, On China, Penguin Books, New York, 2012, see Chapter 4 – 6, p 91- 180

Footnote ***** : Sun Tzu, Art of War, Book 3, Attack by Stratagem, Verses 8 and 9: “It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the
enemy's one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two. If equally matched, we
can offer battle; if slightly inferior in numbers, we can avoid the enemy; if quite unequal in every way, we can flee from him." (see:
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North Korea, Kim Jong-un, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Tensions on the Korean peninsula,
North Korea blackmails the international community, Asian politics, North Korea's bluff,
how to deal with North Korea, North Korea's strategy