I’ve written before that North Korea can be reasonably described as a mountain bandit state, a kingdom of bullies that extorts what it needs to survive from its neighbors by threatening to do something violent, no matter how crazy it looks. And they keep doing it because it works. Time and again since the accession of North Korean
mutant psycho-dwarf dictator Kim Jong-Il, North Korea has threatened war and devastation. Then, afraid North Korea might really start a huge conflagration (and most everyone admits that a renewed war on the Korean peninsula would be a bloodbath), concerned nations rush into give Kim everything he wants while pretending to be firm with him, in return for promises not to do whatever it was again. North Korea then breaks these promises, gets more stuff it can’t produce on its own, and the whole farcical ballet starts again. Rinse and repeat.
The thing to remember about bullies and bandits is that they rely on you being afraid of them. Call their bluff, and they often back down. The current case in point being North Korea’s threat to “retaliate” if South Korea carried through with a live-fire exercise on Yeonpyeong island, a recent target of a North Korean artillery barrage. Instead of backing down, the South Koreans flipped a large finger toward the North and went ahead with the exercise.
Guess who backed down?
NORTH Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il offered up a major last-minute nuclear concession and was forced last night to turn the other cheek.
This came after the South refused to cancel a live-fire artillery drill near their maritime border.
The North Korean Supreme Military Command said last night it would not retaliate for the South’s 90-minute artillery exercise, saying it was not worthy of a response.
Despite the nuclear inspections breakthrough offered to US envoy Bill Richardson in Pyongyang, the South launched the drill at 2.30pm (4.30pm AEDT) – on Yeonpyeong Island – the scene of North Korea’s deadly artillery attack last month – in spite of threats of retaliation and even nuclear war from the North.
South Korean fighter jets armed with guided missiles streaked through the air above Yeonpyeong and warships cruised the area to silence any response from the North as the test shelling began.
The North last night called the drills a “reckless military provocation” but said it was holding its fire because Seoul had changed its firing zones.
The official Korean Central News Agency statement suggested that the North viewed yesterday’s drills differently from the ones last month because South Korean shells landed farther south of the North’s shores.
Given that the North claims the waters far to the south of the island, at face value their retreat is vindication of the resolve of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
Pyongyang had apparently offered before the live-fire exercise to allow nuclear inspections to resume — in return for cash. Thus they were starting the bandit-ballet again. Only, this time, South Korea called them on it. Good for Seoul and President Lee Myung-Bak. Let’s hope this heralds the start of a new, fear-free, and tougher line toward North Korea and its bandit king, Kim Jong-Il.
via Roy Medcalf
UPDATE 12/22/2010: At Pajamas Media, Claudia Rosett thinks this is all part of the same charade, too, and that Kimm has hung out his Christmas stocking for Obama to fill.
(Crossposted at Public Secrets)