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North Korea and the United States locked in a game of chicken

The game is a classic. Two hot headed teens trying to impress the likes of their friends or girls line up their hot rods and drive at each other at full speed. Their hands grip the wheel and their feet press into the gas. To swerve, or not to swerve. The former makes you a coward, but the latter could end in destruction. Which will the driver choose?  

This is the situation of North Korea and the United States, and the hot rods are in the shape of nuclear weapons. Fueled by Twitter rants, name calling and an accelerating aggressive rhetoric, the two nuclear vehicles move towards each other at an unpleasantly quick pace. As time passes, the question of who will or won’t “swerve” becomes increasingly desperate for an answer.

This deadly game is one used by powerful states to exert power and enforce submission through fear, according to scholar Allison Grant.

“Proceed on course and risk a fatal collision, or avoid it, but at the cost of submission,” said Grant in his book, “Destined for War.” He writes: “Strategic conflict short of hot war is essentially a contest in risk taking. The state that can persuade its adversary that it is more committed to achieving its objective, or more reckless in pursuit of it, can force the adversary to be more responsible—and yield.”

On Twitter alone, President Donald Trump has tweeted that the U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is “wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man” because the U.S. will “do what has to be done.” Using a social media platform to blatantly threaten war against a country testing heavy weapons, and calling their leader childish names, falls under the “reckless pursuit” cited by Grant.

Additionally, Trump sent a message to North Korea during his speech to the United Nations speech in September by saying that, if North Korea attacked any of the United States allies, the U.S. would have “no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

Yet, Trump is not alone in his pursuit of power. According to the Washington Post, Kim Jong Un has ignored warnings from China about increasing the frequency and range of long-range missiles. The missiles launched by North Korea in mid-July this year were said to have the capacity to reach U.S. land. Kim Jung Un is playing with his new toys, showing them off to Trump to prevent him from shutting down North Korea’s pursuit of gaining weapons and power.

Neither nation can win a nuclear war, but both are desperate to prove that they would be willing to risk it all. If nuclear war occurs, there will be no victory and the possible death of millions of citizens. The climate and economic consequences should be enough for rational leaders to avoid the nuclear path. Yet Trump and Kim Jong Un are set in the decisions of choosing a path that might risk total destruction. In this nuclear game of chicken, there will be no winners after all.

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