Is a North Korea October surprise in the offing? With the excitement about the long anticipated Julian Assange information releases at a Tuesday news conference in Berlin, it's easy to overlook the possibility of other surprises coming our way before election day – and maybe even before the next presidential debate.As reported by CNN, a new study suggests Korean dictator Kim Jong-un might decide to steal Assange's thunder by quite literally launching some surprises of his own. In the case of North Korea, this scenario could range from missile launches to another nuclear weapons test. Historically, North Korea has made a habit of carrying out attention-grabbing actions during October of any year in which a US presidential election is taking place. Of course, 2016 happens to be one of those years.
In the past, these demonstrations – or tantrums, depending on your perspective – were more for show than anything else, and not necessarily true military threats. In more recent years, the new leadership – meaning Kim Jong-un exclusively – has behaved in a way that has been both more serious and more disturbing to the United States and its ally, South Korea.The motivation for North Korea to carry out these October surprise news grabbing events is difficult to pin down. Whether the North Koreans believe it gives them some advantage militarily or leverage in negotiations isn't entirely clear. Perhaps they just like thumbing their nose at the United States.
Of course, since this North Korean demonstration would occur just weeks before the 2016 election in the United States, it's possible that the North Koreans see it as a way to intimidate an incoming United States president, whether it's Trump or Clinton. They probably also recognize that Barack Obama – like any lame-duck president – would be reluctant to take vigorous military action against them just when his presidential authority is ending.The test recently of a larger and more powerful – and perhaps more sophisticated – atomic bomb by Kim Jong-un's government represents a greater threat than the ones usually posed by the blustery North Koreans. Combined with North Korea's ongoing missile tests – the testing of a new rocket engine was confirmed by the AP on September 19 – the United States felt the need to tighten sanctions further.
This is another reason why the North Koreans may be planning something this October – apart from their desire to interfere with United States presidential politics. They are likely annoyed by the efforts of the American government before the U.N. Security Council to interfere with the coal exports North Korea sends to China.
As reported by the AP, the United States believes that China is using an exception to the sanctions – allowing "livelihood" trading in coal – as a way to illegally provide $1 billion in financing for the North Korean government and military. But Kim Jong-un and his somewhat paranoid minions in North Korea may see this as a threat.
With this perception of threat comes an increasing chance of a surprising – yet entirely expected – move by North Korea. Many experts feel that North Korea's current leader will most likely carry out another launch, nuclear test, or similar demonstration of military power and prowess. On the other hand, there's always the chance that he might attempt another direct attack against South Korea.But the North Koreans may be miscalculating this time. Following the last significant attack by North Korea on South Korea, the government there came under a great deal of criticism for limiting the response of their military to such attacks. In fact, there are even indications that South Korea is considering the assassination of Kim Jong-un.
Currently, South Korean military commanders have much greater leeway when it comes to responding to direct attacks by North Korean forces. If the planned North Korea October surprise fails to take this into account, the result could be a potential disaster for the Korean peninsula.
[Feature Image by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]