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(EDITORIAL from the Korea Times on March 1)

All News 08:50 March 01, 2016

Kim Jong-un way
NK falters in old game, needs to change or else

By now, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un must have realized that the winning game in his inherited playbook has finally run out of magic and that it is high time for him to face a new reality or get swept away by the juggernaut of change.

Since its Jan. 6 nuclear test, China, its benefactor, and the United States, its adversary, have been at loggerheads, blaming each other for the North's wanton behavior. It's natural that the 33-year-old young dictator enjoyed watching the fight as his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, did with his "equidistance diplomacy," playing China off the Soviet Union to court the fellow communist state.

But the Feb. 7 rocket launch finally made the world say, "Enough is enough," as China turned its back on Pyongyang and joined the United States for what is said to be the strongest package of sanctions yet by the United Nations. Kim needs to wake up to the new reality that has been long in coming: the Cold War is over, China led by modernist leaders and the U.S. and South Korea know its tricks inside out.

Although Russia, the remnants of the Soviet Union, is temporarily holding up the passage of the sanctions, Kim should brace for the worst that can deal a final blow to his nation that is teetering on the brink of collapse, having survived chronic famines in the middle of prolonged isolation.

The new U.N. sanctions would cut off fuel supplies from China to the North; all ships from and to ports in the North would be searched; financial transactions would be looked into; and minerals exports, a key source of hard currency earnings, would be out. True, some supplies for the use of ordinary people would be spared and contraband through the border with China could sustain Pyongyang for some time. But what is emerging from this international effort is a chokehold that will eventually lead to a comatose state. Of course, Kim in his young mind may think that he has a stockpile of nuclear weapons and missiles that carry them, which could be used to blackmail the South for handouts.

As a key leader in an effort to penalize the North for its nuclear threats, the South shouldn't and wouldn't. Kim should also give it up, if he thinks about a suicidal nuclear attack. By doing so, he would invite a preemptive strike as practiced by the allied forces of South Korea and America.

So what avenue is left for Kim? For once, he should show earnestness and join talks for denuclearization or, if being short of it, call for an indefinite moratorium on all nuclear and missile tests. If he worries about the South and U.S. attempting to topple his kingdom, he wouldn't be wrong by a wide margin but these countries as well as China have a stake in keeping the North from a sudden collapse that entails a massive spill of refugees in all directions.

That is what Kim's survival depends on. As Pyongyang said immediately after the nuclear test, it should refrain from proliferating nuclear materials and technologies. By doing so, Kim as good has done half of the job. Being gun-shy, Kim may ask China to deliver his intention for a moratorium and nonproliferation. This could be the first and best step Kim has ever taken to ensure his immediate survival. If he is not convinced, he should think about the alternative — either eating scraps of missiles for lunch or being pulled down violently from the throne.

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