Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Juche means ... never having to say you're sorry

All Hail the Juche Wave of the Future
(Image from Wikipedia)

The baffling part about North Korea's decision to test its nuclear weapon is its apparent indifference about embarrassing its patron China, which had just reassured the world that the North was not about to test a nuclear weapon and which is currently apoplectic enough to criticize the Kim Jong-il regime for its "flagrant and brazen" violation of international opinion -- China's way of letting the North know that it's very angry about its loss of face.

But I guess that Juche -- the North Korean ideology of self-reliance -- means never having to say you're sorry, so don't expect Kim Jong-il to apologize.

The question is: What sort of tough love can the North expect from China?

China is the only country with the ability to bring down the Kim regime by economic means, for the Chinese supply the bulk of North Korea's energy and have, occasionally, cut off fuel oil shipments ... temporarily. In a moment of pique, the Chinese might do this again ... briefly ... but Realpolitik suggests that the logic (if not the manner) of Kim Jong-il's nuclear test won't change things.

Why not?

Because the Chinese don't want North Korea to collapse. Consequently, they won't do anything to endanger the North Korean regime unless they have to, and if they thought that they needed to undermine the regime, then they'd try to ensure that China shapes the process and controls the end result -- such as when China "contemplated launching a pre-emptive invasion of North Korea" because it feared that the U.S. might actually start bombing the North to take out its nuclear-weapons program about three years ago, according to a Jasper Becker op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (reported in the OUP Blog).

So unless the U.S. is about to bomb the North Koreans or otherwise seriously undermine the Kim Jong-il regime, then China will do nothing more serious than attempt a reciprocal public embarrassment of North Korea for having embarrassed China (such as supporting a U.N. condemnation of the North or very publicly shutting off the North's fuel oil supplies for a few weeks).

Kim Jong-il might look eratic in his manner, but there's method in his madness. Everyone may currently be expressing fears that North Korea's nuclear test will start a nuclear arms race in Northest Asia as Japan and the South Koreans rush to develop their own nuclear weapons, but I don't think that this will happen.

Why not?

Because it's not in the interests of the United States for Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear weapons to balance those of the North Koreans. The U.S. can dissuade Japan by assuring it of protection under America's nuclear umbrella, and it can do much the same with South Korea.

China, Russia, and the U.N. would also urge restraint on the part of Japan and South Korea, and I don't think that either of these two nations would be willing to further destabilize Northeast Asia when the U.S. and everybody else is telling them not to.

So far as I can see, then, the 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il has calculated the Realpolitik of Northeast Asia and determined that the nuclear benefit outweighs the temporary cost.

And he's probably right.

6 Comments:

At 9:04 PM, Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

Do you have any theories as to why all this is happening? Dictators the world over are ignored, so long as they don't mess with nukes and terrorists. Kimmy could live comfortably and without fear of regime change if he would just stay under the radar. Or he could come clean, like Muammar Qaddafi, and enjoy the benefits of being a "friend" of the US, while remaining dictator.

So what's up with all the saber rattling?

 
At 9:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Kim Jong-il needs an enemy like the U.S. so that he can convince his people that they must remain united and strong, but the regime also convinces itself that everybody's out to get it, so it thinks that it needs nukes to protect itself.

The society is extremely isolated (albeit less so these days) and xenophobic. Kim Jong-il cannot afford to open up or liberalize because the North's population would quickly see that the South has a far better system, and the pressure on the regime would become unbearable.

All Kim Jong-il cares about is staying in power, and in a twisted way, a nuclear weapon helps because he can even use it to blackmail China into keeping the fuel oil flowing and the trade going.

Eventually, it will all fall apart, because the North's population is beginning to glimpse the outside world through China and can see that their society is extremely poor.

But even then, the regime will be dangerous -- who knows whom they might try to take along with them...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:59 PM, Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

who knows whom they might try to take along with them...

I hope it is not you and my Korean friends.

 
At 3:55 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Me, too.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:14 PM, Blogger Jose J said...

Who to believe? the world news controlled by the super powers that have lied for decades creating propaganda mascarated for free flow of information, or the offical website of DPRK that says that By international standards, DPRK citizens enjoy a very high standard of living and that DPRK is a state free of homelessness, unemployment, prostitution and starvation. USA and other powers have lied greatly like I said, and most of the times history is writing by the winners.

 
At 8:56 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jose J, since the North has in the past asked for famine relief and since refugees tell of their lives in the North, among other sources, then I think that we can know some things not 'controlled' by 'the superpowers.'

Jeffery Hodges

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