Monday, December 13, 2010

Forgetting Something?

Fall is over, winter has come. The semester is all but completely wrapped up. I really have nothing else to worry abou...


Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair went on CNN's "State of the Union" yesterday with interesting news: South Korea is losing its patience with North Korea, which will eventually result in further military action.

"I don't think a war is going to start but there will be military action at lower levels," he added.

It is widely believed that if a full scale war were to break out between the Koreas, South Korea would emerge victorious. Despite this, the North Korean government wants nothing more than an increase in tension along the border. Why do they feel secure in instigating South Korea? Why are they stirring up trouble now?

The answer to the first question is two-fold:
1) North Korea has support from China: Despite the leaked U.S. cable including Chinese Foreign Minister He Yafei's claim that North Korea was like a 'spoiled child', China is benefitted in the long run by having power over a misbehaving state. It is unlikely that this relationship will change, despite the flaws in the two countries' relationship. With China involved, there is little chance that this time-tested spat will transform into all-out war.

2) North Korea insists on being strong despite its weakness: Although South Korea's military capability is stronger than that in the North, North Korea is compelled to antagonize the South. This level of crazy isn't just another dig at the Dear Leader (but let's be honest, that's 12 foot of crazy in a 4 foot man). We're talking core government philosophy. "Juche", the leading ideology of North Korea, is best described as an attitude of national self-reliance. Obviously, this chafes with being a client state under China. Juche is undoubtely the reason why North Korea is consistenly labeled as unpredictable, irrational, and foolhardy.

Why now?

I could say "why not?" but there's actually more to it than that. As fellow class blogger "Aurelius" mentioned in this semester's first blog post, it's likely that the North Korean leadership is trying to give credentials to the country's successor, General Kim Jong-un. During the transfer of power from the country's founder to Kim Jong-il, a similar rise in hostilities took place. The totalitarian government of North Korea depends on the perception of a strong leader, which means the past year of military clashes may be more of a PR stunt for a political campaign than earnest attempts at war.

So what does this mean for the short term? South Korea's newly appointed Defense Minister, Kim Kwan-jin, has been increasing military readiness since the most recent artillery bombings. North Korea has unveiled a new facility that enriches uranium. The New York Times has conveniently listed the most likely targets of North Korean aggression.
To slow this military escalation, Washington may consider supporting China's efforts to get the six party talks back on track. Also, Harrison and Cushman have an interesting Op-ed piece in the New York Times that suggests a redrawing of boundaries in the Yellow Sea, conducted by the UN.


Marshal Davout said...

Blast you for posting on N Korea 2.5 hours before me!

Dirty Hairy said...

That's the way the cookie crumbles, Marhal. Your name may be on the Arc de Triomphe, but that doesn't excuse your wanton tardiness in the sphere of international affairs. Good day, sir.