|Asia's Playboy Dictator|
It's sometimes hard to understand what goes on in the closed doors of the
rulers of communist
nations. Democracies on
the other hand tend to leak like sieves,
After playing brinksmanship in 1994, North Korea won significant
concessions from the Clinton administration for terminating their nuclear
program - specifically
- Two light-water reactors
- 500,000 tonnes of fuel per year
Not a bad payoff for a few weeks of blackmail.
Eight years later, the North Koreans are playing brinksmanship again.
After admitting that they continued to develop nuclear technology anyway,
the Dubya administration stopped the aid, and the fuel shipments.
The Pyongyang government has been squealing about being 'double crossed'
for the last few weeks, and no-one really cared, but now they have reopened
one of their reactors which is suitable for bomb-making.
Dictatorships talk tough for two reasons, either
- They think they can get consessions through bluffing - it worked with the
Clinton administration in 1994;
- It is a response to internal power
struggles - such as the shaky Argentinian
Junta taking the Fauklands in 1982 to gain popular support from a suitably ignorant
and machismo public.
There are no obvious power plays in Pyongyang at the moment (although
information on the reclusive Stalinist state is pretty sketchy). It seems more
likely that this is in response to the recognition that a quarter of the North
Korean population is likely to starve this winter - something must have
gone wrong in the people's paradise utopian socialist state. Every North Korean
knows that all the problems are the fault of the Americans, and none of them
can say why.
The North Korean government wants some kind
of change - because they realize their system is not working. Their insight
doesn't go as far as recognizing that they are the problem, but with dictators it
rarely does. Any solution which reduces Kim Jong Il's quota of Western
call-girls would be unthinkable. So it's back to squeezing what they can out
of the US tit.
Their insight also doesn't go as far as realizing that they are no longer
dealing with a soft Clinton administration. The only hard thing about Clinton
was his .. ego. Dubya uses quite a different blunt instrument, and is saying
that he can fight a war on two
fronts - Iraq and North Korea simultaneously.
But it all depends on China. While China no longer has
the ideological ties with North Korea, old habits die hard, and the old guard
in China still have control. A political struggle in China
could make it convenient to paint an American attack on North Korea as an
precursor to an attack on 'Middle Kingdom', and the Korean War would replay all
over again, with super-powers fighting their battles in North Korea.
All of which seems like good reason to play out the 1991 Gulf war over
again - and soon. It will get rid of some of the uncertainty.
But in the age of live CNN coverage, they will be under pressure to change
the endings of both wars - they weren't very popular with the US public, and
democracy (unlike dictatorships) demands popular outcomes.
And besides Dubya doesn't want to replay his daddy's second election campaign.