Tuesday, April 12, 2016

North Korea: Despite defections, it just gets worse and worse

Apart from expanded discord between the United States and China, the main fallout from the nuclear test and the rocket launch has been the pall cast on inter-Korean affairs. South Korea's decision to shut down completely the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex led to an immediate reoccupation of the related section of the Demilitarised Zone by the North Korean military. This outcome portends an ugly North Korean riposte and a period of overt and covert military confrontation in 2016.
Decades of incremental attempts to stop and reverse North Korea's breakout have failed completely. More international dithering will enable the DPRK to acquire a full-spectrum nuclear deterrent within the next two decades. From Kim Jong-un's perspective, only a comprehensive regional security settlement between the great powers, combined with a regional nuclear weapons-free zone, can provide a substitute for North Korea's nuclear weapons. Kim's leadership would gain more recognition from such treaty-based agreements than he could ever hope to gain from a renegade nuclear weapons program.
Unless an attempt is made to change Kim's strategic calculus, it is virtually certain that the DPRK will conduct more nuclear tests and launch more satellites. It may even start to test long-range re-entry vehicles and convert space launch rockets into ballistic missile delivery systems.


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