Pyongyang's losing game
Missile gamble will not pay at home, abroad
Concerns of the international community will likely become a reality once again, as North Korea has made its intention to launch another rocket official.
No matter what North Korean officials say to justify what they call the peaceful promotion of space science, the world knows it is a thinly-veiled attempt for missile test. And whatever motives Pyongyang has in demonstrating its military prowess, the communist regime, especially its struggling residents, will be the biggest loser of this high-stake gamble.
This is because, to borrow from an old saying, North Korea’s foreign counterparts are not cheated which know they are being cheated.
Nor is it very difficult to see why the reclusive regime is overreaching to make the unprecedented move of launching two long-range missiles in a year. Kim Jong-un, who took power upon his father’s death a year ago, is anxious to show something in his own name as the first anniversary nears.
At home, the North’s leadership might have wanted to say it has kept the promise of making a strong, if not prosperous, country before the self-imposed deadline of 2012 passes away. But how many North Koreans ― for whom freedom from fears of famine is foremost concern ― will sympathize with their leaders, let alone feel grateful to them? Nuclear weapons and missiles can never fill their empty stomachs.
The young North Korean leader and his advisors might also attempt to influence the upcoming presidential election in South Korea. It won’t work at least for two reasons: the time has long past for South Koreans to feel intimidated by election-year crying wolves from the North. And therefore Pyongyang’s scare tactics will turn hard-liners even more hawkish while sharply narrowing the room for inter-Korean doves to openly defend or engage with the isolationist regime.
Beyond this peninsula, Kim Jong-un and company might have newly elected or reelected leaders of G2 in mind, by taking more advantageous position in dealing with both its biggest patron and archenemy. But Washington knows the North’s missiles, even if Pyongyang succeeds this time, are still years away at the least from delivering nuclear warheads to the U.S. shores. The North’s half-baked attempt to reaffirms its self-reliance in nuclear and missile issues can only estrange relationship with the new Chinese leadership for years.
The winners from the impending missile launch, successful or abortive, will be the United States, which will step up efforts to build a missile defense system in Northeast Asia, and Japan, which will find additional excuses for rearmament. Among losers will be South Korea faced with renewed ''Korea discount” of security risks, and China suffering from weakened leverage over its protégé as well as the enhanced trilateral alliance among the U.S. and its two Northeast Asian neighbors. No doubt the biggest loser of all will be North Korea itself, as most foreigners, friends and foes, will keep a distance away from it for the time being.
All this, including pressure from most countries in the form of tightened and prolonged U.N. sanctions, is too heavy a price for a one-off display largely aimed at the domestic audience. North Korean leaders may think they have chosen a perfect timing of mid-December when most of their counterparts have just picked new leaders or are about to do so. The truth is they picked the worst timing for the same reasons _ a very bad diplomatic beginning for the fledgling leadership in Pyongyang.
Most pitiable of all, the world will throw away what little expectations it had on the new Korean leadership. Kim and his coterie must think twice for none other than their slowly dying population.