Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tantrum Time in Hermit Land

Speculation is flooding the airwaves regarding why the North Koreans decided to unload over 200 artillery shells at a populated South Korean island just outside the sea border.  More important than the fact of the event, is the motivation.

It is unlikely that the sole basis of killing South Koreans was to force the party of six back to talks. It is also not a particularly wise method of obtaining more food aid following this season's disastrous crop, although it fits with the usual infantile "pay attention to me NOW" tantrums of the government.  After all, the sinking of the Chon An was far more serious. So, why now and why a conventional attack as opposed to, say, testing a nuclear weapon (which is coming)?  Pyongyang may be pushing the limits of what constitutes "acceptable" provocations to conventional attacks to determine how far it can raise the threshold of a response from the South.  If the latter, then the situation becomes exceedingly dangerous. South Korea has every ability to inflict a great deal of pain on the North Koreans but is unlikely to do so because of the risk of a war.  But that restraint is unlikely to continue for long and if there is no military response, what does South Korea know that we don't?

Reports are that Korean ports are empty of warships.  There are at least 50 major combat ships heading toward the Korean coast including elements of the US 7th Fleet- something that probably puts it on the top ten list of  least favourite things in Beijing. Having a fleet of that size parked in your front yard is not designed to improve anyone's mood.  And, in the end, China is key. This sort of thing makes them uncomfortable.But loss of credibility as the regional leader is worse. China needs to step up and deal with its ally.
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments: