Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Question on Potential for Kim Jong-un Miscalculation

received the following query from a journalist:

How big of a miscalculation is the young North Korean leader likely to make?

It is hard to say but based on what we know of Kim Jong-un's lack of experience, his purging of those with experience, combined with the contradictions of the regime, and the positions and actions taken by China, the ROK, and the US along with Kim Jong-un's apparent hubris and his remaining advisers possibly being sycophantic yes men I think we have the makings for some potentially epic miscalculations.  We have already seen his miscalculations with the Leap Day Agreement, this past spring's fiery rhetoric along with the closing of the Kaseong Industrial Complex, being shown up by President Park both on the international scene (especially her visit to China) and in negotiations with the north to get the KIC reopened, the hostage taking of Kenneth Bae and now Merrill Newman.  All of these are regime mistakes and miscalculations because they have not achieved the political and economic concessions that such actions and provocations have achieved in the past because the ROK and US, and to some extent even China, are not following the Kim Family Regime playbook that they have for the last 6 decades.  But the real serious miscalculations will start occurring after the north's next violent provocation when the ROK military responds decisively at the time and place of the provocation.  Since the regime has not seen a response like that in the past Kim Jong-un could very well miscalculate and and execute an escalatory response.  On the other hand and perhaps counterintuitively for some, a decisive immediate response by the ROK at the time and place of the provocation is really the only hope of deterring further attacks by the north.  As the Chinese say, we are living in interesting times.
V/R
Dave

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