Entry 30: Back in the Groove

January 24, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is the 30th installment in Van Jackson’s daily writing journal, “Nuke Your Darlings,” which tracks his six-month battle to write a new book on North Korea. Will he meet his deadline?


I got my groove back today. I had less than two hours to work on the book, but squeezed out around 650 words. All the non-book writing tasks in my life are ramping up more or less at once. From here on out, I have to assume I’ll never have more than two hours a day.

I decided to wall myself off from social media during my writing window, and to deprive myself of the internet other than tabs already open in my browser with previously stacked ammo. I often have a dozen or more tabs open with resources that I think I can make use of but don’t feel like saving in a file for later.

Lester Holt from NBC News just traveled to Pyongyang and is making a mockery of the American news media. He’s mostly reporting back inane and useless observations that any tourist who travels to North Korea would get. It appears the Kim regime isn’t even giving him preferential access despite being an A-List news guy. North Koreans are notoriously racist, and I wonder if that’s why.

One interesting tidbit that Hold did report was that, in a conversation with one official, he was told that Pyongyang wouldn’t use nukes unless their “sovereignty or dignity” were threatened. This is interesting for two reasons.

First, it’s pretty unspecific, but it’s also a pretty low threshold. Using nukes for any reason short of retaliation for being nuked yourself is a low bar. This sounds like the nation-state equivalent of using nukes because someone stepped on your Adidas at the club.

Second, since Kim Jong Un inherited the kingdom in 2011, North Korea has been much more focused on the dignity of Kim and the regime. Last year saw many North Korean references to the Trump administration violating their “dignity. In July 2016, when the Obama administration placed sanctions on Kim Jong Un and his lieutenants for human rights abuses, North Korea declared it an “open declaration of war.” No war came, of course, but from that point forward, Kim redoubled his efforts to achieve a secure, reliable retaliatory nuclear missile capability as quickly as possible.


Van Jackson is a senior editor at War on the Rocks and an associate editor of the Texas National Security Review.

Image: Shane Gavin, CC