North Korea: Contemplating the Inconceivable

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“Yesterday’s conflict does not have to be tomorrow’s war,” President Trump told reporters in Singapore after an historic meeting with Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un.[1] Never before has a sitting U.S. president met with a ruling Kim family patriarch, but now the two leaders have signed a joint pledge in which “Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the North Korean Peninsula.”[2] Chairman Kim told reporters, “Today we had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind. The whole world will see a change.”[3] Likewise, after expressing his confidence that America’s future relationship with North Korea will be very different from the past, Trump said confidently, “We are going to take care of a very big and a very dangerous problem for the world.[4]

These comments stand in stark contrast to those made less than a year earlier. In August of 2017, after President Trump declared, “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” the undaunted Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) threatened to launch four medium to long-range ballistic missiles into the sea to create “an enveloping fire” around the U.S. territory of Guam.[5] They also issued a statement threatening pre-emptive war against the U.S. mainland.[6] Undeterred, President Trump then tweeted, “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely,”[7] and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis cautioned, “The DPRK should cease any consideration of actions that would lead to the end of its regime and the destruction of its people.”[8] Mattis also warned that if North Korea fired at the U.S., then “it’s game on” and that “it could escalate into war very quickly”.[9]

North Korea endeavored to back their threats with a display of strength by test-firing two ballistic missiles directly over Japan.[10] South Korea responded with a simulated strike against the North,[11] and in his first address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if “Rocket Man” (Kim Jong Un) continued on his suicidal mission.[12]

Irate, Kim Jong Un declared, “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire,”[13] and an editorial in a state-run newspaper declared President Trump to be “a hideous criminal sentenced to death by the Korean people” for hurting the dignity of the Supreme Leader, “The worst crime for which he can never be pardoned”.[14] Five days later, President Trump announced that North Korea has been re-designated a state sponsor of terrorism.[15]

And who could forget President Trump’s tweet, “North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.’ Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”?[16]

In September, The New Yorker wrote, “Americans are accustomed to eruptions of hostility with North Korea, but in the past six months the enmity has reached a level rarely seen since the end of the Korean War, in 1953.”[17] Likewise, a seemingly endless procession of pundits warned cable news anchors that President Trump’s hubris would result in a nuclear war. We were assured that the threat of North Korea could not be assuaged, and fearing Armageddon, we were told that our best option was to accept North Korea as a nuclear power.[18] Calling for pragmatism to prevail, The Washington Post wrote, “The Trump administration should treat a nuclear-armed North Korea as a given and make moves to bring it into the international mainstream. Not following the lead of previous presidents could plunge the world into a nuclear nightmare, all in the name of nonproliferation.”[19]

However, everything has changed. In “a turnaround that would have been inconceivable just a few months ago,”[20] President Trump has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize,[21] and today there is a signed document stating that North Korea will work toward “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” something President Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that he believes will start virtually immediately.”[22] And President Trump said he “developed a very special bond” with Chairman Kim. Indeed, much of the reporting of the peace summit has included some variation of how these events were “considered almost unimaginable just months ago.”[23]

In this instance, we can rejoice with these rapid and unprecedented changes; however, this should serve as a reminder to us that the future is precarious. We cannot know what lays around the corner. This is why James cautions, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that’” (James 4:13–15). We like to assume that our routine of life will continue indefinitely, but we are granted no such promise. As such, we would do well to seize today’s opportunities because we do not know what tomorrow may hold.

God has warned that disaster will come upon those who make oppressive laws that exploit the poor and helpless (Psa. 12:5; Isa. 10:1–3 NIV). Jeremiah 9:1–9 teaches that a culture of lies can invoke God’s judgment upon a nation. And Leviticus 18 teaches that God judges nations for embracing the practices of killing babies, adultery, and homosexuality. We must not assume that today’s blessings will continue indefinitely. What will happen when God chooses to hold our nation accountable for its sins? Surely if President Trump can accomplish an “inconceivable” turnaround of events in a short space of time, the Almighty God could accomplish the “unimaginable” overnight.

This week’s remarkable events in Singapore should encourage us to reconsider what is possible. Perhaps it is time to contemplate the inconceivable. Let us not become confident of what tomorrow will bring; instead, let us discern the hour in which we are living and realize that God is calling our nation to repentance. Today’s national blessings are not promised tomorrow. Therefore, let’s seize today’s opportunities to proclaim the truth of God’s Word, to call people to repentance, and to stand firm in faithful obedience.

For an explanation of the history of the North Korean crisis and what President Trump is endeavoring to accomplish, see the paper “Evaluating the North Korean Crisis.”

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Timothy Zebell

As a former missionary to Asia for twelve years and the author of several books, Timothy is passionate about helping people understand the relevancy of God's Word in today's world. His goals are to help Christians discern truth from error, empower Christians to speak into cultural matters with relevancy, and to help Christians capitalize on the opportunities that these matters provide for sharing the truth about God and His gospel message.
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1. Noack, Rick and Armand Emamdjomeh. “The Events and Shifting Moods that Led to the Summit with North Korea.” The Washington Post, June 11, 2018. Accessed June 12, 2018.

2. Nakamura, David, Philip Rucker, Anna Fifield and Anne Gearan. “Trump-Kim Summit: Trump Says after Historic Meeting, ‘We have Developed a Very Special Bond.’” The Washington Post, June 12, 2018. Accessed June 12, 2018.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Baker, Peter and Choe Sang-hun. “Trump Threatens ‘Fire and Fury’ Against North Korea if It Endangers U.S.” The New York Times, August 8, 2017. Accessed August 10, 2017.

6. Ibid.

7. Merica, Dan and Kevin Liptak and Angela Dewan. “Trump Warns North Korea: US Military ‘Locked and Loaded.’” CNN, August 11, 2017. Accessed August 14, 2017.

8. “Statement by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.” U.S. Department of Defense, Release No: NR-286-17, August 9, 2017. Accessed August 14, 2017.

9. “Mattis: If North Korea Fires Missile at US, It’s ‘Game On.’” Fox News, August 14, 2017. Accessed August 14, 2017.

10. “North Korea Fires Second Ballistic Missile Over Japan.” BBC, September 15, 2017. Accessed June 12, 2018.

11. Ibid.

12. Trump, Donald. “Remarks by President Trump to the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.” The White House, September 19, 2017. Accessed June 12, 2018.

13. Noack, Rick and Armand Emamdjomeh. “The Events and Shifting Moods that Led to the Summit with North Korea.” The Washington Post, June 11, 2018. Accessed June 12, 2018.

14. Erickson, Amanda. “North Korea Says Trump Should be ‘Sentenced to Death’ for Insulting Kim Jong Un.” The Washington Post, November 15, 2017. Accessed June 12, 2018.

15. Nakamura, David. “Trump Puts North Korea Back on State Sponsors of Terrorism List to Escalate Pressure Over Nuclear Weapons.” The Washington Post, November 20, 2017. Accessed June 12, 2018.

16. Donald J. Trump. Twitter Post, January 2, 2018, 4:49 PM. Accessed June 12, 2018.

17. Osnos, Evan. “The Risk of Nuclear War with North Korea.” The New Yorker, September 18, 2017. Accessed June 12, 2018.

18. Andelman, David. “North Korea Will Be a Nuclear Power. We Need to Accept that Now.” CNN, n.d. Last Updated August 21, 2017. Accessed June 12, 2018.

19. Craig, Malcom. “The United States Must Accept a Nuclear North Korea.” The Washington Post, September 6, 2017. Accessed June 12, 2018.

20. Landler, Mark. “Trump and Kim See New Chapter for Nations after Summit.” The New York Times, June 11, 2018. Accessed June 12, 2018.

21. Treloar, Stephen. “Two Norwegian Lawmakers Nominate Trump for Nobel Peace Prize.” Bloomberg, June 13, 2018. Accessed June 13, 2018.

22. Berger, Judson. “Trump to ‘Hannity’: Kim Jong Un to Start Denuclearization ‘Virtually Immediately.’” Fox News, June 12, 2018. Accessed June 12, 2018.

23. Nakamura, David, Philip Rucker, Anna Fifield and Anne Gearan. “Trump-Kim Summit: Trump Says after Historic Meeting, ‘We have Developed a Very Special Bond.’” The Washington Post, June 12, 2018. Accessed June 12, 2018.


Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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