Between Jong-un of Korea and Bin-Salman of Arabia
By Yushau A. Shuaib
In quick contrast to their respective jurisdictions, they are maverick and young with enormous political powers to determine the fate of their nations and their neighbours. Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of North -Korea and Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), the Defence Minister and Crown Prince of Saudia Arabia are below the age of 40 with hereditary powers from their fathers who influenced their current positions as world most powerful young leaders.
While Jong-Un took over the reign of the leadership of North-Korea after the death of his father, Mohammed Bin Salman, popularly known as MBS was appointed Defence Minister and Crown Prince by his Father King Salman Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia.
The two young leaders are not pursuing known political ideology or religious beliefs in their campaigns to preserve their powers. They nevertheless have various things in common.
Since he took over leadership of North-Korea after the demise of his father, Jong-Un has not only threatened to attack his immediate neighbours, especially South-Korea, his regime test-fired Inter-continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching western parts of the US and also fired missiles over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. The provocative actions led to a surge in tensions with the Donald Trump-led administration and an intensified UN sanctions regime.
On the other hand, Crown Prince Salman has escalated the age-long sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shi’ite by showing disdain for Iran and its influence in the region. Salman is alleged to have masterminded Saudi Arabia’s escalation of Yemeni War against the Houthi rebel group, viewed in Riyadh as a proxy for Iran. The war has claimed more than 13,500 lives. He also led a coalition of Gulf monarchies in cutting off economic and diplomatic relations with Qatar, another Arab country on an allegation that Doha was supporting “extremism” in the region. Qatar has vehemently denied the allegations.
While Jong-Un is a hardened critic of American leaders and their foreign policies, Prince MBS is not only a darling of Americans but coordinated the hosting of American leaders in the Islamic holy country.
In one of the harshest criticisms of American leaders, Jong Un described Donald Trump as a ‘dotard’ which in the Korean word translates for “old lunatic or fool,” when he said, “The reckless remarks by a dotard like Trump can never frighten us or put a stop to our advance.”
In an immediate response to the verbal attack on his person, President Trump in a sarcastic putdown through his twitter described the North-Korean leader as “short and fat.” He said: “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’”
Meanwhile, apart from being hosted by Saudi Kingdom after his inauguration as American President, Donald Trump was the first and probably the only world leader to have publicly hailed the Bin Salman’s arrest and detention of top Saudi royal princes, cabinet ministers, some of the kingdom’s most powerful and wealthiest businessmen including Al-Waleed bin Talal who are currently inmates of Riyadh Ritz Carlton luxurious Hotel. In praising the crackdown, President Trump tweeted thus: “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing. Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years.”
While Jong-Un’s regime has China as its main supporters and backers, strangely enough, the current Saudi Leadership are looking beyond the United States of America as its main allies by looking towards the Jewish State of Israel for security and intelligence sharing.
China is North Korea’s biggest trade partner and arguably has the most leverage on Kim Jong-un’s regime. Apart from supporting Jong-un, China has consistently opposed harsh international sanctions on North Korea to avoid regime collapse that could trigger a massive influx of refugee from Pyongyang.
Recent reports indicate that Saudi Arabia and Israel are de facto allies in the struggle against Iran’s rising influence in the region. There was a report by the Israel Broadcasting Corporation claiming that a member of the Saudi royal family visited Israel during a secret trip, despite his country’s refusal to recognize the Jewish state. Also in an interview with UK-based Saudi newspaper Elaph, the Israel’s Chief of Staff, General Gadi Eisenkot, said that Israel was ready to exchange intelligence with the Saudis in order to confront Iran. He said: “There are shared interests and as far as the Iranian axis is concerned we are in full accord with the Saudis.”
The two young leaders deploy exceptionally aggressive approaches in dealing with perceived oppositions within and outside their respective territories. Kim Jong Un is more brutal in his high handedness. In December 2013, he ordered the execution of his uncle Jang Song-Thaek over an allegation of treachery. He is also widely believed to have ordered the assassination of his half-brother, Kim Jong-Nam in Malaysia in February 2017.
Though Bin Salman has never been associated with ordering an execution or assassination of opposition elements. Meanwhile, a day after the purge in Saudia Arabia, a helicopter crashed mysteriously in the Kingdom killing a high-ranking prince Mansour bin Murquin, the deputy governor of Asir province and seven other people. Prince Mansour is the son of Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, a former director-general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency and a one-time crown prince of the kingdom who was replaced by Bin Salman.
While there are common grounds in making comparisons between Jong-Un of Korea and Bin Salman of Arabia from their styles of governance, their audacity in taking unpopular, fearless and radical decisions have created palpable tensions and anxiety in their respective sub-regions.
While there have been existing fears in the Korean Axis for over a decade due to the occasional eccentric demeanours of North-Korean Leaders, the Arabian axis seems to be in a more perplexing anxiety with recent actions of Saudi leadership.
With the two young leaders display their excessive power by suppressing internal dissents and provocatively confronting external pressures, the international community must watch out and caution them from plunging their volatile regions and by extension the world into needless conflicts.
Yushau A. Shuaib