Thursday, June 11, 2009

On North Korea And Her Recent Misdeamours

Isolated and ignored, North Korea chose to do what any spoilt child would do; throw its toys around. Problem is, these toys can turn out to cause some real inconvenience for the global villagers. The whole national psyche of North Korea shows symptoms not unlike those of a manic depressive. Tantrums, sudden spout of verbose rants and even periods of feigned normalcy that mask the deep-seated psychological problems. Spoilt child or manic depressive, North Korea is crying out for attention and the situation demands a solution. So how do you deal with a North Korea so bent on flexing her muscles and with nothing to lose? That is the conundrum facing the global community and threatens to derail the lofty plans of the Obama administration to bring about peaceful co-operation between the United States of America and the so-called “axis of evil” coined by his predecessor, George W. Bush. Almost a decade of diplomatic engagement has failed to result in any concrete signs of North Korea ever relenting on its nuclear programme designed to equip it with military capabilities. North Korea has repeatedly claimed to pursue such a programme only for the cause of self-defence against the alleged threat of an U.S. invasion. Such claims only obscure the real intentions behind the mysterious North Korean ruling elite headed by the “Dear Leader”, as he is lovingly called in their press, better known to the rest of the world as Kim Jong Il. One suspects that he has thrown caution to the wind and will continue his nuclear agenda regardless of international pressure to do otherwise.

Nuclear disarmament, to be sure, is more than just the problem of North Korea. It encompasses several nations with similar ambitions to develop nuclear weapons as a military deterrent or extra bargaining chip in diplomatic gambles. North Korea, however, is an especially tough nut to crack. The reason is because she has nothing to lose! North Korea is already considered one of the poorest of nations populated by a starving illiterate populace conditioned to adore their “Dear Leader’. The traditional solution of sanctions will simply not work on the impoverished North Koreans and would not achieve any significant purpose, much less incentivise a popular coup against the dictatorship. You know that the world is desperate when the solution being discussed is to ban the sale of luxury goods to North Korea. What exactly are they hoping to achieve? There is absolutely nothing that North Korea has to offer to the global community, only a brand of trouble that reeks of desperation and greedy opportunism. Talking just does not seem to be the style of Kim Jong Il. The six-party talks conducted between North Korea, China, Japan, Russia, U.S.A and South Korea has become a game of diplomatic merry-go-round. Consensus was reached and then broken time and again in somewhat never-ending tantrums of North Korea. Notably in 2006, against the momentum of the talks, the North Koreans detonated their first nuclear bomb underground sparking an international frenzy. In early 2009, they launched what they alleged was a satellite but which many have since acknowledged to be one of their long-range missiles, the Taepodong-2 ICBM. The recent underground detonation of a nuclear bomb and the test launch of another two missiles is really a slap-in-the-face for the American administration that has always been the main driving force of the six-party talks. Even though many of these tests were acknowledged failures, the impact on the global community are still significant enough to be real political and diplomatic considerations.

The missile launches and nuclear detonation have not been the cause of sleepless nights for the world’s leaders. The real concern is that North Korea might share such knowledge of nuclear military technology with countries that have similar ambitions such as Syria. Syria is an oft-quoted example because it’s widely acknowledged that North Korea was heavily involved in helping them develop a nuclear facility. Such collaboration can only trigger a number of speculative possibilities which lead to no happy ending. If countries such as Iran, Syria and even Pakistan start to seize on this unfortunate momentum and start developing, maybe even accelerating, their nuclear programmes, then the whole international framework of checks and balances against nuclear armament will collapse like a row of dominoes. The treaties such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other reviewing processes currently in place may have to be revamped to fit a new gloomy paradigm. The long-held assumption of Mutually-Assured Destruction (M.A.D.) is a double edged sword, supporting the argument for peaceful mutual nuclear disarmament to prevent a nuclear holocaust but also supports the argument for countries desperate to gain additional leverage and bargaining power to level the allegedly unbalanced playing field in the international arena of diplomacy. It sounds like a doomsday scenario but the longer the North Korean question drags on, the darker our future looks. North Korea alone cannot do much to upset the global dynamics that currently keep our world safe but leave it alone and like a nasty virus, our global community might be in for a rude shock provoking another ill-welcomed crisis.

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