In recent months, North Korea’s despotic Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, has continued his pursuit of nuclear weapons, and ballistic missile platforms capable of delivering them to targets all around the globe, but a distinct shift in rhetoric coming from the region has begun to alter our American perspective of the situation.  In the minds of many, heightened tensions with North Korea could be attributed to America’s controversial and conservative president, because those who disagree with Donald Trump would rather attribute all of the problems this country faces to his spray tan, rather than approach each with an objective and analytical mindset.

The thing is, North Korea has been an issue since well before Trump took office, and the situation we find ourselves in now is nothing more than the natural escalation of Kim’s rule.  The only elements of this scenario that have really changed during the Trump presidency are how close Kim finally is to achieving his goal, and how much attention we’re paying to the situation in the media.

Recognizing that they stand little chance of winning a staring contest with multiple carrier strike groups and nearly 30,000 American soldiers bolstering South Korean defenses just south of the demilitarized zone, North Korea decided to follow Vladimir Putin’s lead a few months ago, and start working to take charge of the narrative.  Instead of working tirelessly to present the image of a military peer worthy of fear and respect (as they have so comically attempted in the past), North Korea is now trying to paint a very different picture: one where they admit to being smaller and less powerful – in order to pretend they’re the victim of geopolitical bullying, rather than being subject to the same rule of law that governs most modern nations.

In short, North Korea is pointing its well-honed propaganda machine outward for a change, and it’s beginning to work.  Kim, or at least his advisors, seem well aware that they don’t need to win a fight on their shores to defeat America, they just need to alter how the American people see a conflict with them.  A strategic military victory in the Pacific could even bolster American support for war with North Korea… but if there’s one thing modern American culture truly hates, it’s a bully.  By making it seem like our government is that bully, North Korea, as well as other competitors like Russia, can begin to deflate American support for a war before it ever develops.

So let’s take this opportunity to look back on some of North Korea’s statements to the world at large before they started pretending they’re the victim of a Trump-led conspiracy intent on ruining their chances at financial security (by way of strong arming trade deals through nuclear threats, as Kim hopes to do).

In 2009, North Korea’s government issued a statement to announce that it had “tremendous military muscle and its own method of strike able to conquer any targets in its vicinity at one stroke or hit the U.S. on the raw, if necessary.”

In 2013, the North Korean government released images of Kim and his top military advisors pouring over documents with a map in the background that read, “US Mainland Strike Plan.” The image was accompanied in state-owned media outlets with the description: “He finally signed the plan on technical preparations of strategic rockets, ordering them to be on standby to fire so that they may strike any time the U.S. mainland, its military bases in the operational theaters in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Guam, and those in south Korea,” a KCNA report in English said.