- Jeffrey Lewis, a top expert on North Korea, wrote a column published over the weekend suggesting the US should bomb Kim Jong Un’s personal toilet to put the fear in him.
- Lewis’ suggestion, while tongue-in-cheek, shows the kind of thinking needed to properly calibrate a “bloody nose” strike, which the US is reportedly considering.
- Lewis and others have found Kim has a personal port-a-potty brought with him to missile launches, and the US could demonstrate its precision and skill by striking it.
A top authority on North Korea has jokingly suggested the US launch an unorthodox attack on the country’s leader. Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk and the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterrey, California, has outlined a plan for the US to strike Kim Jong Un’s personal toilet.
Writing at The Daily Beast over the weekend, Lewis was responding to increased chatter of a US strike on North Korea. Though Lewis was approaching the issue in a tongue-in-cheek way, his writing nonetheless illustrates the dangers of and motivations behind using military force to send a message.
Basically, reports have come forth that the US is tired of North Korea’s constant defiance and wants to carry out a limited strike in response. In theory, the use of force against a weaker opponent can serve as a reminder of who is in charge.
But while North Korea couldn’t really defend against a small US strike, it doesn’t intend to defend. North Korea’s military posture is entirely offensive. While the country could do little to stop an incoming cruise missile or airstrike, it has long had artillery aimed at Seoul, South Korea’s capital of 25 million.
Lewis seems to think that the idea has some merit but that the difficulty lies in finding a target that’s important enough to matter but not big enough to provoke war. From The Daily Beast:
“The central challenge, as we contemplate a ‘bloody nose’ option for a limited military strike, is finding a suitable target that represents Kim Jong Un’s nose – a target that will allow our strike to be intimidating and humiliating to Kim, but not the sort of broad assault that might prompt him to retaliate with his growing stockpile of nuclear weapons.”
Lewis settles on a target of little strategic importance but great personal relevance to Kim: his port-a-potty.
Kim almost always observes North Korean missile launches from a private trailer. The launches normally happen in the middle of nowhere, so comforts like a port-a-potty suited for a supreme party leader need to be shipped in. Here’s one in the background:
“Destroying the port-a-potty will deny Kim Jong Un a highly valued creature comfort, while also demonstrating the incredible accuracy of US precision munitions to hold Kim and his minions at risk,” Lewis wrote. “It will send an unmistakable message: We can kill you while you are dropping a deuce.”
Lewis refers to his idea as hilarious, “a comedy and an action movie – both at the same time.” The US military, however, may not be laughing.
Lewis’ playful idea represents a rather circumspect approach to selecting the right target to use military force to send a message. While the verbal, diplomatic, and economic messages the world has tried time and time again have failed to get through to North Korea, President Donald Trump’s administration has floated the idea of military action more than any before it.