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So what’s next?

November 12, 2009

The ever-amazing Andrei Lankov just had a new piece of gem on North Korea.  According to Lankov, the Americans have finally outsmarted the North Koreans and that is apparently why they are in no rush talking to Pyongyang. He believes the Americans have realized that there is nothing one can do about the DPRK’s existing nuclear program and there will be no such thing as “denuclearization of North Korea”. I think Lankov is on to something (not surprisingly). If he is right that is quite shocking. The first question coming to mind is, are the other players, China and South Korea in particular, on the same page here? 

A barrage of questions will then follow: Will this rude awakening impact their North Korea policy? If so, how? What’s next? Will this set off the real arms race in East Asia? Will both South Korea and Japan rush to go nuclear? Will the US be able to reign in South Korea and Japan with the promise of continuing to place them under its protective nuclear umbrella? How will China respond? If Lankov is right that this has reached the point of no return, what will be Stephen Bosworth and the North Koreans talking about in the upcoming visit? We will let you keep your nukes as long as you don’t proliferate?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2009 8:16 am

    Keep on the good job! South Africa Work Visa

  2. November 14, 2009 2:54 pm

    Well, the DPRK’s nuclear programme has never much mattered except as a thin-end-of-the-wedge example. Unless a robust opposition to the DPRK’s nuclearization is mounted, other countries may be tempted to follow suit.

    But in practical terms, it doesn’t matter at all. They’ve only got the resources to build one or two fairly tiny bombs, and no effective delivery system. It’s not much more than empty posturing at present. If it ever threatens to become anything more, I imagine there’d be a much more decisive intervention.

    The most obvious ‘conspiracy theory’ (not my own, but I do find it quite convincing) to explain America’s attitude to the DPRK nuclear issue is that it finds it a very convenient pretext for maintaining a high-level presence in East Asia, particularly its military deployment in South Korea – the ultimate purpose of which is not really to protect South Korea or threaten North Korea, but to contain or respond to a possible ‘China threat’ (particularly over Taiwan, I should imagine).

  3. November 16, 2009 2:18 am

    In my humble opinion all “conspiracy theories” are a big waste of time (the ones about 9.11 in particular) and this one is not exceptional. I believe the Americans are very sincere about denucleraizing the DPRK even though they might not be so sincere about talking to Pyongyang. Everyone knows that the DPRK is seriously lacking the capability and the delivery regime to cause any real harm with its nukes (at least not for the US. South Korea, Japan and China do have reasons to worry); however the Americans are more concerned about the DPRK selling its nukes to Iran and some terrorist groups for hard cash. In addition, if the US is seen as powerless to stop the DPRK from going nuclear, other countries might follow suit. And the US doesn’t want that. Neither does China. Therefore I think the US and China are in the same boat here.

  4. November 16, 2009 9:05 am

    Oh, I agree the DPRK has the potential to become a threat, but that threat isn’t yet very urgent, or very near to becoming so. If it hasn’t got much capacity to build bombs, it certainly hasn’t got much capacity to sell them or ship them overseas (given its isolation – that really shouldn’t be possible; China would bear a big responsibility for policing the land border there). Iran is much more of a problem from that point of view (not to mention a distintegrating Pakistan, and, er, Russia…). If terrorist organizations or rogue states want nuclear arms, they’re probably going to cut out the middle man and go straight to the source – where does most of the DPRK’s nuclear technology originate?

  5. November 16, 2009 9:30 am

    “where does most of the DPRK’s nuclear technology originate?”

    It is believed to be Pakistan. And I don’t think they (terrorists who accquired nukes from the DPRK) are going to risk going through the land border with China, they can easily use one of North Korea’s vast fleet of commercial ships, such as Kang Nam.

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