Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Bellicosity of North Korea Continues Apace

Maintaining a nuclear arsenal despite being completely incapable of feeding its population should give clear insight into what drives the North Korean regime. It is all about its own survival and cult of personality that blinds it to the realities that the world outside the hermit kingdom is flying past.

Yet its war with South Korea has never ended. It was only suspended, which is why the North Koreans continue to engage in acts of war occasionally to remind everyone that the North hasn't gone into the dustbin of history.

Sinking a South Korean ship wasn't sufficient to capture the world's attention, even though the US and South Korea note that a North Korean torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine was to blame for the sinking that killed nearly 50 sailors. It was the casting of blame on North Korea that led the North to shut its border with the South and escalate the war of words between the two countries.
North Korea threatened Wednesday to block cross-border traffic and blow up any South Korean loudspeakers blasting propaganda northward after a six-year hiatus, as tensions soared over the sinking of a South Korean warship.

The dramatic deterioration in relations came as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Seoul at the end of a three-nation Asian tour that was dominated by the March 26 sinking blamed on a North Korean torpedo attack.

"This was an unacceptable provocation by North Korea, and the international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond," Clinton told reporters after talks with South Korean leaders.

A team of international investigators concluded last week that a homing torpedo from a North Korean submarine tore apart the 1,200-ton Cheonan off the west coast, killing 46 South Korean sailors.

South Korea began taking punitive steps Tuesday against North Korea — ranging from slashing trade, resuming propaganda warfare and barring the North's cargo ships. Those were seen as among the strongest it could implement short of military action.

The U.S. has said evidence of the North's culpability is overwhelming and has backed the South's measures, but key North Korea ally China has said it is still weighing evidence about the sinking and has done little but urge calm on all sides.
Now who exactly will suffer as a result? Well, there are some South Korean companies that do business in North Korean export zones to take advantage of the cheaper labor, which was all part of a Sunshine policy to improve relations between the two countries. However, the real problem is that shutting the border harms the North far more than it does the South - or anyone else for that matter. It isn't a rational decision for the North to take, given its precarious economic situation.

Yet, there is a rationality to the North's actions. They know that the South will not go to war with the threat of thousands of artillery and missiles aimed at its largest population centers. The threat of civilian casualties is too great to respond with force to such acts of war, so the war of words is substituted. This enables the North Koreans to continue engaging in such acts knowing that they can do so with near impunity because there is little the rest of the world is willing or capable of doing to stop them - and that includes China. All China can do is try to keep the situation calm, because the last thing China wants is a refugee mess on its border as North Koreans come into China looking for a safe haven from the North Korean gulag archipelago and the utter destitution found throughout North Korea due to the regime's destructive economic and social policies.

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