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Sunday, 10 March 2013

From serious to ridiculous – The North Korean itch

If you didn’t know that Kim Jon-un was in charge, you could believe that nothing has ever changed in North Korea – at least, not in terms of propaganda or war rhetoric.
After the latest nuclear test, North Korea has – once more – enforced a war like tone by rejecting the bilateral armistice agreement with South Korea, and threatening the US with a “pre-emptive nuclear attack”; as a reaction to the newly announced sanctions by the international community after the new nuclear test.

Can it be taken seriously? Not really.

The lonely Kim
It is a matter of fact that North Korea is turning into complete international isolation, even its sole remaining ally China is withdrawing its support for the Kim regime. The international community’s decision to impose more sanctions is a logic reaction to a regime that shows itself unimpressed by international laws and multilateral cooperation, but which is desperately drawing attention by a voice of violence and almost ridiculous threats than can hardly be considered as imminent threats, at least not in terms of a nuclear attack on the US – due to a simple lack of efficient and reliable technology.
So far, every single step made by the new North Korean leader is identical to everything his father and predecessor Kim Jong-il has done, just dragging the country deeper and deeper into isolation without significant progress in the bilateral relations to South Korea.

The newest bomb test was just another proof of North Korea’s unwillingness to respect international rules for conflict resolution, shattering the humble and small approaches in the bilateral relations to South Korea. After Kim Jon-un has seized power, North Korea seemed to have taken a slight course of consolidation and probably even rapprochement with its main advisory South Korea.
Now, all hopes are shattered and the conflicts is about to turn hot again.

Threat of sanctions insufficient
All the international community can do is threatening North Korea – but with no more than mere economic sanctions affecting the elite of the country. This measure will – however – not necessarily affect the North Korean war machinery since this “branch” of the North Korean economic system is the only one that works more or less properly, while all the other economic sectors remain way underdeveloped, compared to its immediate neighbours. More economic sanctions by the UN will just harm the population which has been used to devastating starving periods and painful supply shortages.

In the meantime, the war machinery is obviously going strong and cannot be bothered about the visible humanitarian disaster. And even though the outrage in the world is pretty much visible, the question remains. How long will the world go on just looking at this threat?

A severe regional problem
North Korea’s military potential is not only a threat for the region itself, but for the entire stability theatre in East Asia, not only affecting South Korea but also Japan. Japan is currently re-evaluating its own security role in Asia Pacific and considers a change of the merely self-defence character of its constitution – a radical change of paradigms since the end of World War 2. This is a clear indication that the looming conflict in Asia Pacific is about to enter the next step of regional arms race, or even pre-emptive action against any further weapons development on the Korean Peninsula.

What is actually more concerning of the most recent step by North Korea, are the potential immediate effects. With the termination of the armistice agreement with South Korea, Seoul will be on high alert from now on. Not too far away from the South Korean capital is the inner Korean border, and alongside that border, on the North Korean side: a notable number of artillery batteries, with Seoul in its firing range. Experts estimate that, in the event of a North Korean attack, there will be more than 1 million casualties within the first 24 hours.

Therefore, it is only natural for South Korea and Japan to be on high alert now. A regime that turns its own propaganda more aggressively is unpredictable in its possible actions, even though its technical options are relatively limited for a full scale regional war.

The beginning of the end?
There is a common behaviourism for authoritarian regimes: the more a regime is facing imminent collapse – in economic, political and moral terms, the more aggressive the own propaganda turns. The new sanctions will mostly hit the regime and its elite only, while the North Korean population will go on suffering, ignored and supressed by their leaders.

However, China – North Korean’s sole remaining ally – has finally come to the conclusion that Kim’s ridiculous policy is no longer acceptable. With practically no one left, how long will North Korea go on with this black comedy?
If there is any ally left, then it could only be Iran. Experts already anticipate an increase of trading and weapons deals between both regimes, and for North Korea to draw financial assets from Iran to finance its nuclear weapon programme, and the comedy opens a new chapter.

One thing is pretty sure: the days of Kim’s regime are numbered. But a question remains: how soon will Kim fall?

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