Both US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and North Korea seem to agree that last week’s US attack on Syria was about ongoing US hostility toward North Korea, though the message that Tillerson believes was conveyed appears to be starkly different from what North Korea learned.
Tillerson insisted the attack on Syria proved that every time a nation breaks “international norms,” the United States will carry out a response “at some point,” and that North Korea needs to accept US demands for Korean denuclearization to avoid a similar fate.
North Korea’s foreign ministry, on the other hand, said the attack showed them the US was recklessly aggressive toward its enemies, and if anything proved to them that they need to retain a nuclear arsenal as a defensive and deterrent force against a future US attack.
It’s not hard to see why North Korea would have learned that, as Libya’s disarmament was followed in less than a decade by US-imposed regime change, and Syria’s 2013 agreement to scrap its chemical arsenal was followed by years of escalating US moves aiming to remove their government from power, culminating in last week’s attack. It is unsurprising, in that context, that North Korea would see giving in to US calls for unilateral disarmament as merely a prelude to a US attack.