Thought for the Day

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest." - Confucius

Friday, February 8, 2013

Why North Korea Is Testing Nuclear Weapons Now


If you do not read anything else, I recommend Dr. Natsios' conclusion:
The North's upcoming test and threats to bomb the United States are a crude attempt to intimidate the South Korean, Japanese, U.S., and Chinese governments into making economic concessions to resuscitate their sclerotic economy or provide food aid. All four governments have at varying times provided assistance to the North, three of them in exchange for ending the weapons programs. Pyongyang took the aid and continued to build their arsenals. By connecting aid to the weapons programs we have trained the North to continue building missile and nuclear bombs, since it is the one way the North can capture their neighbor's attention and get help. North Korea has resolutely avoided any major economic reforms to build a market economy, because the leadership believes reform poses too many risks to the continuity of the Kim dynasty. So they let their population starve, while they use their scarce revenues to build weapons of mass destruction to threaten their neighbors. The one bottom line the North Korean ought to consider when they make their threats: One or two nuclear weapons does not pose any real threat to the United States or its allies, because should they attempt to use them, the United States will turn North Korea, as former Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice so famously put it, into "a parking lot." Threats must be creditable and the North Korean threats simply aren't. The bigger issue has always been the North Koreans selling their technology to a nonstate actor (read: terrorist groups) against which the deterrence principle is less effective. In any case it's time the United States tell Pyongyang that we aren't playing their games any longer—the game is over and it time for them to accept the risk implicit in any political and economic reform strategy and end their contemptible threats.

Why North Korea Is Testing Nuclear Weapons Now
February 8, 2013 RSS Feed Print


Andrew Natsios is an executive professor at the George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, and the author of  Sudan, South Sudan and Darfur: What Everyone Needs to Know. Natsios served as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and as President George W. Bush's special envoy to Sudan.
The first test of the Obama administration's second term foreign policy team is shaping up to be North Korea's upcoming nuclear explosion. Korean President Kim Jong Un last week declared martial law in anticipation of the country's third nuclear test that Un has reportedly ordered be conducted before the middle of February, which will coincidentally occur on his late father's (and former leader of North Korea) birthday. This week a bellicose and belligerent North Korean government put on its official website a bizarre and provocative video of the bombing of what appears to be New York City with the caption: "Somewhere in the United States, black clouds of smoke are billowing... It seems that the nest of wickedness is ablaze with the fire started by itself." The video includes the launch of a North Korean missile, implying that if the United States puts too much pressure on them the consequence will be a nuclear response. The Chinese foreign minister on Wednesday issued a stern public warning to North Korea against the test, and the Chinese Communist Party official party newspaper published an unprecedented editorial saying, "If North Korea insists on a third nuclear test despite attempts to dissuade it, it must pay a heavy price." North Korea is in no position to anger its only remaining patron and ally, and yet it may go ahead with the nuclear test anyway.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said that he regards the North Korean nuclear threat to be greater than that of Iran, which has yet to test its first nuclear bomb. Kerry's statement may reflect the growing concern of U.S. intelligence officials and members of Congress that North Korea now has both nuclear weapons and the means—intercontinental ballistic missiles—to deliver them.   

The nuclear test will come at a politically sensitive moment. The Obama administration's new foreign policy team is not fully in place. Three new heads of government in the countries most affected by North Korea's threats have recently taken office: Chinese President Xi Jinping who took office late last year as did Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and South Korean President Park Geun-hye who will be sworn in shortly. President Park is the daughter of former South Korean President Park Chung-hee, who the North Koreans bungled an attempt to assassinate in 1974, but ended up killing his wife, and mother of the new president, instead. All three leaders have one thing in common, they all face domestic problems requiring their attention and do not want to be distracted by a foreign policy crisis their first few months in office orchestrated by the ever-troublesome North Korea. All three new leaders face diplomatic challenges with each other. China and Japan are quarreling over control of a small, uninhabited island in the China Sea. Debates in Japan about the need to rearm in the face of rising Chinese military power have unnerved South Korea which suffered under Japanese abuses in the first half of the last century when Korea was a Japanese colony.  

Why, then, is the 28-year-old ruler of North Korea, Kim Jong Un—himself in office for just over a year—exploding a nuclear weapon right now? One reason may be to distract the attention of Communist Party cadres, the North Korean military, and its long suffering population to a fictional external threat. He has been purging its geriatric government and military officialdom to put in place younger men, loyal to him, but the change of leadership is not going well. Rising official dissent appears to be spreading across the country from those who have lost political and military power. Fabricating an external threat may be meant to suppress dissatisfaction among unhappy North Korean elite. The only product the North Korean economy now produces of any consequence are weapons, since it cannot feed itself or provide consumer products for its population (except through imports from China).
(Continued at the link below)

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