Andrei Lankov on North Korea's Bluff of War
I wasn't going to write more on North Korea's bluster, but after posting my opinion yesterday, I discovered a column in The New York Times by an acquaintance of mine, Professor Andrei Lankov, who echoed my views, not that he was borrowing from me, of course, for he's a far more informed scholar than I'll ever be. Anyway, the article -- titled "Stay Cool. Call North Korea's Bluff." (April 9, 2013) -- in an expansion on this title, says the following:
[T]here is almost nothing particularly unusual in the recent developments. In the last two decades, North Korea has on various occasions conducted highly provocative missile and nuclear tests and promised to turn Seoul into a sea of fire. Now it has declared its withdrawal from the 1953 armistice agreement that ended fighting in the Korean War but not the war itself. It has denounced American and South Korean military exercises as an act of war. And on Tuesday, North Korea told foreigners in the South to look for shelter or consider evacuating because the Korean Peninsula could soon be engulfed in nuclear war. This time, the tune is being played louder, but that is the only real change.That's enough for me to make my basic point, namely, that my opinion is not idiosyncratic, but is shared by others, even by experts such as Professor Lankov, so stay cool, everyone, and don't worry about the North starting a war.
A closer look at North Korean history reveals what Pyongyang's leaders really want their near-farcical belligerence to achieve -- a reminder to the world that North Korea exists, and an impression abroad that its leaders are irrational and unpredictable. The scary impressions are important to North Korea because for the last two decades its policy has been, above all, a brilliant exercise in diplomatic blackmail. And blackmail usually works better when the practitioners are seen as irrational and unpredictable.
Put bluntly, North Korea's government hopes to squeeze more aid from the outside world. Of late, it has become very dependent on Chinese aid, and it wants other sponsors as well.
Meanwhile, readers and visitors with an interest in more details should go on to read the article itself.