Arms are not the answerNorth Korea is persisting with its brinkmanship strategy, but the effective value of that strategy ends here. It believes that it will get what it wants through its nuclear tests and missile launches or the use of provocative language. Its launch of seven Scud-type missiles on July 4 is a prime example of that.
Meanwhile, the international community, including Korea and the United States, has differed in the approach to North Korea, as the North appears poised to apply its past success to present strategy.
The recent missile launch, conducted on America’s Independence Day, was aimed at attracting the attention of the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama.
And indeed, Vice President Joe Biden said as much to ABC News on Saturday: “This has almost become predictable behavior. Some of it seems like almost attention-seeking behavior.”
The Obama administration is tightening the reins by taking steps to enforce the sanctions against North Korea. Obama has even emphasized that tougher action on North Korea may be taken. Meanwhile, the State Department said the tests were “not helpful” and that North Korea should “fulfill its international obligations and commitments.”
A special task force that traveled to China to enlist its help in applying the sanctions is known to have investigated suspicious North Korean bank accounts in Malaysia.
Of course, North Korea will withstand the hardships the sanctions impose, because it has maintained an independent economy while becoming increasingly isolated from the international community for more than six decades.
And because China, which is worried about American influence on the Korean Peninsula, is not likely to be willing to cut back on the assistance it provides to North Korea, North Korea is likely to escape the worst effects of its isolation.
The question is whether the leaders in Pyongyang will get what they want, despite the hardships they must endure, by resorting to arms.
The answer is no.
As long as North Korea is a nuclear weapons state, normalizing its relationship with the U.S. is nearly unthinkable.
We are at a loss to explain how they can continue to endure international isolation and substandard economic conditions. Will North Korea leave the matter of protecting its citizens’ welfare unresolved for years to come?
The North’s recent acts of bellicosity seem related to its succession concerns, but the North should change its way of thinking and pay more attention to its citizens’ welfare. It should turn the money its spends on missile launches into a fund to feed its people.