Wednesday, April 14, 2004


Good summary of a talk given by Sung-yoon Lee in Boston over at OxBlog. Lee argues, among other things, that what determines the DPRK policy on nukes is, first and foremost, domestic political imperatives:
the Pyongyang dictatorship considers the possession of nuclear weapons to be the only reliable guarantor of its existence. In the absence of a nuclear deterrent, it would only be a matter of time before the South Korean government destroyed its Northern counterpart by tempting its citizens with the prospect of prosperity and freedom Thus, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that Kim Jong Il will accept the verifiable dismantling of his nuclear program in exchange for economic aid, international legitimacy, a non-aggression pact with the United States or some combination of all three. Immoral or not, giving in to blackmail simply won't work.
His conclusions are, unsurprisingly, rather pessimistic:
In spite of this bleak assessment of North Korean motives, is there any hope for change in the near future? Prof. Lee says 'no'. At the moment, there are no indications of factionalization within the North Korean military and thus no known prospects for a coup d'etat. While the North depends on China to provide much of its food and most of its fuel, China is in many ways the subordinate partner in the relationship. Knowing that a collapse of the North Korean regime would result in the arrival of millions upon millions of starving North Korean refugees in northern China, Beijing simply will not take any sort of action that endangers the existence of the Kim regime.
In closing, Prof. Lee shared his expectation there will be no significant developments on the Peninsula before the US presidential election in November. Moreover, even if John Kerry takes the White House there is little reason to expect any substantive change in American policy. For as long as the imperative of survival governs the decision-making process in Pyongyang, the options available to the West will remain extremely restricted.
We Americans don't like considering the idea that there may be nothing we can do (or nothing we might have done--cf the current ramblings of the 9/11 commission) to change things but perhaps there are some times in which that is actually the case.

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