Saturday, February 27, 2010

North Korean nuclear arms help consolidate position at home and increase diplomatic leverage

Nobody expects North Korea to drop any atomic bombs from its decrepit fleet of MiG fighters or attach a nuclear device to one of its vaunted missiles. In fact, it's quite uncertain whether North Korean engineers and scientists have actually figured out how to deliver a warhead. Nonetheless, North Korea intends to remain a nuclear power.

"It is almost impossible for outsiders to know whether there were any debates within the North Korean leadership about the pros and cons of going nuclear," Professor Wang Jisi of Beijing University said. Why bother, was the rhetorical implication. "Even if there had been any doubts and hesitations," he said, clearly "the perseverance to attain nuclear weapons is serving the leaders' interests very well".

The logic was simple, from Wang's perspective. "Achievement of nuclear arms should help consolidate their position at home and increase diplomatic leverage," he said. "They feel little increased military pressure while they know how to take one step forward in nuclearization and then pause to show an ostensible readiness to negotiate over denuclearization."

All the while, as Wang noted, humanitarian aid and economic assistance continue to flow into the North.

"Unlike other partners," he said, in a jibe at the Americans and possibly the South Koreans, "Beijing would look at a possible political implosion in North Korea in most negative terms." For that reason his government "would never try to destabilize that country or join others" in attempting "to do so".

[Excerpt of an article by Donald Kirk, Asia Times]

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