Sunday, February 27, 2005

North Korea update

More evidence that the grip of totalitarian control in North Korea is loosening. (I noted a previous data point here.) The author's conclusion:
From Kim's perspective, this increasingly depressing reality underscores the need to maintain the military's support. The centerpiece of his "military-first" policy is the nuclear weapons program. He is unlikely to bow to pressure from the international community to give it up, as this would deal a fatal blow to his power base. But nuclear weapons are not usable against those who may be the regime's real enemies: ordinary people whose obedience and loyalty are disappearing. It may be only a matter of time before the army follows suit.
Note that the author acknowledges that the army could stay loyal to Kim, thus keeping the slave ship from sinking. The question is whether we should just wait out Kim, hoping army loyalty will eventually break. Bryan Preston at TCS thinks, "Diplomatically isolated and economically bankrupt, North Korea may now be ripe for revolution or at least collapse." (He also speculates that the Proliferation Security Initiative helped put NK in its current condition.) My take: China, for whatever reasons, doesn't want NK to collapse, for otherwise they could have made it happen already by stopping, say, their fuel subsidies. The North Korean generals know this, and so they'll stick with Kim. As a corollary to my take on China, I'm skeptical of Duncan Currie's suggestion that we pressure to China to let us and other countries resettle North Korean refugees, instead of sending them back to their gulag. (Even he admits it's a long shot.) If such a refugee policy really would lead to NK's collapse as Currie hopes, then China won't go for it. All we can do for now is squeeze NK economically and hope China changes her mind.

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