The Means To North Korea’s Madness Are Clear, Its Motives Are Less Known
North Korea’s aggressive posturing continued with a shift of a missile with “considerable range” to its east coast, although it is unclear whether it could hit the US mainland and the missiles are not believed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
In recent days, the US moved missile defence shields to Guam, while Australia issued a warning to Pyongyang that South Korea could not ignore their threats for much longer.
”We warn them that South Korea, which has shown admirable restraint, is not likely to ignore continuous threats, let alone any future attacks,” Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr said.
Several weeks of threats and counterthreats, however, has left few with a clear understanding of the situation along the DMZ and to what extent South Korea and the US should be worried.
As real as North Korea’s rhetoric may be, many analysts contend the actual capability to strike remains years away.
“Despite its recent threats, North Korea does not yet have much of a nuclear arsenal because it lacks fissile materials and has limited nuclear testing experience,” Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist, according to Fox News.
South Korean Response: A Contrast To Past Crises
David Kang, a professor at the University of Southern California, asserts that there is cause for concern, primarily due to the fact in the current crisis, South Korea is not taking a passive role.
“The difference today is that South Korea is no longer turning the other cheek. After the North blew up the South Korean navy ship the Cheonan, killing 46 sailors in 2010, Seoul re-wrote the rules of military engagement. It has lost patience and will respond kinetically to any provocation, which could escalate into a larger conflict,” Kang argues.
North Korea Posture Pitched To Two Consituencies
He sees Kim Jong Un’s actions as geared toward both international and domestic audiences.
“Internationally, the North Korean regime is saying to the U.S. and the Republic of Korea, “if you hit us first, we’ll hit you back.” To his own people, he is saying that he is in control, that the regime will not give in to foreign pressure, and that everything is fine. That’s why he goes to basketball games with Dennis Rodman and amusement parks with his pretty young wife,” Chang tells Businessweek.
China Remains The Missing Link
Anne Applebaum writes in The Washington Post that it is within China’s power to dramatically reduce the tension in the Asian peninsula.
“If China’s new leadership keeps propping up this regime — which it helped create and which it has supported for more than half a century — then we’ll know that the China Dream really is just a slogan. If, on the other hand, China’s leaders want more respect, they can earn it by resolving a crisis that really is of their making,” says Applebaum.
China Views North Korea As Necessary Foil
Contrasting Applebaum’s view is Atlantic columnist Matt Schiavenza, who contends China is unlikely to wield its influence because it does not view Pyongyang’s collapse as in its interest.
“China really, really doesn’t want North Korea to collapse. For one thing, the trickle of North Koreans currently crossing the border would turn into a flood, leaving China with a messy humanitarian situation on its hands. Secondly, a North Korean collapse would no doubt foster the creation of a unified, pro-U.S. Korea on China’s northeastern flank, depriving Beijing of a valuable buffer against American interest. For these reasons, China needs North Korea to stay alive — and North Korea knows it.”
Etc. – Even Covering North Korea Can Be Difficult
When you open the paper (or click on the link) to read an article on the North Korea crisis, it might seem that you are reading the same piece with only the dateline changed. Reuters columnist Jack Schafer believes there is a reason for the sense of deja vu.