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Nork’s being Norks? Or worse?

Doubtless you’ve seen the headlines about North Korea’s shelling of a South Korean island near the coast of North Korea, killing two South Korean Marines.

The usual claims have been made, denunciations issued and sabers rattled.  But this is another in a long line of serious incidents that the North has been willing to provoke.  The reasons however, remain speculative.  Why is NoKo sinking South Korean ships and killing South Korean Marines?

Well let’s turn to the experts, shall we?  One says it has to do with food and, most likely starvation within North Korea:

One of the analysts who linked the North’s action to food aid was Choi Jin-wook, a North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for National Unification, a research institute in Seoul. “It’s a sign of North Korea’s increasing frustration,” said.

“Washington has turned a deaf ear to Pyongyang and North Korea is saying, ‘Look here. We’re still alive. We can cause trouble. You can’t ignore us.’ ”

Mr. Choi said North Korea had become frustrated over the Obama administration’s refusal to remove a broad range of sanctions against the regime for its continuing nuclear efforts.

“They see that they can’t pressure Washington,” he said, “so they’ve taken South Korea hostage again.”

“They’re in a desperate situation and they want food immediately, not next year,” he said.

It is indeed true that there have been sanctions which have limited the food supplies that could be shipped in, and they’ve had another bad harvest.  But is that the only reason?

Don’t forget, it was just a week ago or so that we learned they had significantly upgraded their nuclear capabilities with what a visiting US professor described as an astonishingly modern facility for processing nuclear material.

Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who previously directed the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said in an interview that he had been “stunned” by the sophistication of the new plant, where he saw “hundreds and hundreds” of centrifuges that had just been installed in a recently gutted building and operated from what he called “an ultra-modern control room.”

So, is it just about food?  Or is it, as others have claimed, an incident generated for internal political reasons?  As we’ve heard recently, Kim Jong Il has promoted his third son, Kim Jong-un, to 4 star general – a move seen as a precursor to handing over power to him at some future point.  Jong-un is a young man with little experience.  Therefore, say some experts, this was about burnishing credentials as well as consolidating power:

NORTH KOREA has burnished the leadership credentials of its 26-year-old dictator-in-waiting with a deadly artillery attack on South Korean territory, causing its neighbour to return fire and scramble F-16 fighters.

Two South Korean marines died, and at least 12 were wounded. There were reports of civilian injuries and houses were set ablaze as scores of shells fell on Yeonpyeong island.

A North Korea expert at Beijing’s Central Party School, Zhang Liangui, told the Herald that Kim Jong-un was deliberately destabilising the environment in order to mobilise the military and consolidate his power.

If that’s the case, it becomes a much more complicated and serious incident. North Korean tantrums and the provocations that mark them are not unusual and normally signal their willingness to negotiate something for something. That, for instance, would the the case if food were the predominant problem. But if we’re in the middle of a power shift, and given the existence of a previously unknown, ultra-modern nuclear weapons facility, is it more dangerous than that?

While the previous incident involving the sinking of a South Korean military ship took many more lives than today, it had some “plausible deniability” attached to it, something the North Koreans took advantage of to deny any involvement.  But not today.  This incident is an act of provocation and belligerence.  I’m of the opinion there’s a lot more going on here than food.

It will be interesting to see how the administration handles this incident.  And let’s pass that START treaty – that’ll take care of the nuke threat, won’t it? /sarc



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13 Responses to Nork’s being Norks? Or worse?

  • A most intriguing comment was just posed over at American Thinker, to paraphrase: China is also in play here as well. Could it be this action is not a rouge operation? As beholden NK is to China, would Ill The Younger not consult their chief ally? Would China have NK create a diversion for a move on Taiwan? The commentator speculates (I don’t agree) if the US decides to renege on our debt, this may be a way of recouping some losses.

  • When I first heard about this story, my reaction was to remember McQ’s or Dale’s comments last year that 2009 was going to be the year that Obama was “watched” on the international stage; 2010 is the year when he will start to be “tested” by the rogues.  I am very interested to see how The Clown will respond.

    • Oh, you know a bow here an apology there…throw in a little soft-shoe and then hit the reset button.  Nothing to worry about, the “Master Orator” has got all our backs.

    • That “spine of steel” has yet to “find an available phone booth”

  • “Well let’s turn to the experts, shall we?”
    Is there any chance those experts are any more expert than our CIA Soviet experts? Unless they include mind readers I doubt it.

  • Bolton, who I respect hugely, suggests the only solution is reunification.
    What would that take?  Given the Collective ideology, massive loss of life.

  • There are never any good options when dealing with the norkies.  Even if we wanted to use nukes, we can’t because dumping fallout over Japan, the ROK, and Red China isn’t exactly the smartest idea in the world.  Pyongyang holds the ROK hostage just as they have for decades; I’d say that any action should be determined by Seoul as they definitely have the most skin in the game.

    In other words, this is one time when voting present and outsourcing leadership decisions is the best thing that The Dear Golfer can do.

    • And the certitude that we are led by a weak man/child is reinforced around the world.
      Extremely dangerous, these next two years.

      • I think neglect is the best policy and that’s Obama’s policy, if only by lazy default. If he flies in to apologize and delivers a couple hundred thousand tons of bunker fuel, then I will get pissed.

  • Its probably both food and political consolidation. North Korea has always whipped up the threat of war to keep their people in line, and since they are now going to have new king, they need to make sure everyone is really, really scared.
    We should keep on ignoring them. Let South Korea do what it must, but no food aid.
    I listened to a podcast on North Korea at CATO (IIRC) and some amazing academic made the argument that the food must flow no matter what the North Koreans do. Nobody called her on that until an incredulous South Korean journalist finally did, mentioning that North Korea had just killed 46 South Korean sailors and you want to keep handing over food like nothing happened?
    And basically the academic said, yeah, keep handing over the food, otherwise people will die.
    Of course, South Korea pretty much doesn’t dare start a war, so they can’t do too much, but the USA should ignore the Norks and support the South. I don’ think the kiddie will be able to survive as long as we think.
    Oh, and that’s the other possibility. Some faction of the military wants to start these provocations to test the leadership of the new leader in North Korea.