If anyone can figure out the North Koreans, and has theories to share concerning their belligerence, I am all ears. Obviously, much of the belligerence is meant to wring concessions from the West on all manners of issues–from getting more economic aid to resolving the dispute over North Korea’s nuclear program in a manner favorable to the Hermit Kingdom–but I don’t know why the North Koreans believe that their approach will get them anywhere. Their actions are regularly condemned by the United States, South Korea, and Japan. The Chinese and the Russians are the closest things that the North Koreans have to allies, and one senses that even the Chinese and the Russians are wary of Kim Jong Il and his ilk. There are persistent rumors that a succession crisis is rocking the political establishment in North Korea, which the regime may be trying to mask with its aggressive actions. But the rumors persist, and the perceived split in the upper echelons of the North Korean leadership is likely being factored into the calculations of other countries as they work to deal with the ramifications of North Korea’s actions. I suppose that one might say that all of this was meant to test the Obama Administration, but little has changed in terms of American policy concerning North Korea, and thus far, the Administration’s outward displays towards North Korea have been displays of calculated indifference.
It’s easy to think that North Korea’s actions are meant to get attention, but the regime has all of the attention it needs. And that attention does not serve to advance North Korean interests. Its belligerence is likely hardening the stance of the outside world against it; there are splits within the international community concerning how best to deal with North Korea, but it seems like Kim Jong Il and his regime are determined to do things that will serve to erase those divisions, and ensure that a more united front emerges to counter the North Korean regime. Indeed, there have been no efforts on the part of the regime to encourage and foster divisions in the outside world on how to respond to North Korean actions–the Islamic regime in Iran has been much better about exploiting disagreements in the West on how best to deal with Iran’s activities. I know that the decision-making process in North Korea is utterly opaque to the outside world, but that decision-making process appears to be even more bizarre and insensible than it has been in the past. At least previously, there could be divined a method to North Korea’s madness. Nowadays, the North Koreans seem to just be truculent with nukes.
I am awaiting further analysis from Joshua Stanton. As should you, quite frankly.