North Korea’s Leadership Forcing New Calculations for the US, South Korea and China

The imperative now is to face down Mr Kim in North Korea. He has ruled out the only promise worth having (suspending his nuclear programme again). North Korea—and other rogue regimes and would-be nuclear proliferators, such as Iran—need to know that actions have consequences. That is why President Park Geun-hye of South Korea, in turn, was right to make it clear that sneak attacks will be met with a much firmer response than in 2010. America is right to move missile defences to Guam. When it sent two nuclear-capable B-2 bombers to fly over the peninsula it was a warning not only to North Korea, but also a gesture of support to the South. If Ms Park doubts American backing, she will be tempted to seek nuclear weapons herself.

What should the West do? In the long term, the best way to destabilise Mr Kim is from within. A new merchant class is emerging—the only prospering bit of the economy. The world must redouble its efforts to engage with these and other possible agents of change. This includes teaching more mid-ranking officials how societies work when they are organised around market economies and underpinned by laws; and funding defector radio stations beaming news back into the North.

America needs to cajole China to press for change in its satellite. Apart from humanitarian aid to the North’s stunted people, all other commercial favours towards the regime should be stopped. Sick of Mr Kim and his family racket, China signed up to fresh UN financial sanctions against North Korea after the latest nuclear test. China has the capacity to choke the most iniquitous sources of the criminal regime’s cash. Yet its commitment to enforcing the sanctions seems half-hearted and it appears to have insisted that Shanghai accounts in two of its biggest banks, holding hundreds of millions of dollars on behalf of Mr Kim and his cronies, be excluded from the sanctions. Attempts at changing North Korean behaviour have so far patently failed. But then, as China shows, not everything has yet been tried.

John Everard, former UK Ambassador, explained that North Korea leaders “believe that they are the victim, they believe that they are being hounded by the United States”. He went on to speak of a “spiral of violence” between North Korea and the US and South Korea and said that war was “possible”.

There’s little doubt U.S. and South Korean forces would ultimately prevail in a war. But for days or weeks, North Korea could bombard Seoul, South Korea’s capital, with artillery and missiles. Bennett estimates that could damage or destroy 10 to 15 percent of South Korea’s GDP, while also terrorizing citizens and causing panicky refugee flows.

SOURCE – Economist Magazine, BBC, US News, CNN

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