A month after an apparently successful test of their long-range rocket capability and the imposition of sanctions for it, North Korea has resumed its saber-rattling. Today the Kim regime threatened to conduct another test of its nuclear weapons, and explicitly announced that its offensive programs are designed to attack the US:
North Korea said on Thursday it would carry out further rocket launches and a nuclear test that would target the United States, dramatically stepping up its threats against a country it called its “enemy”.
The announcement by the country’s top military body came a day after the United Nations Security Council agreed a U.S.-backed resolution to censure and sanction the country for a rocket launch in December that breached U.N. rules.
“We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are targeted at the United States,” North Korea’s National Defense Commission said, according to state news agency KCNA.
Well, they’re not now, anyway. Their hostility to the US has been only barely disguised at best for decades, despite the attempt at rapprochement by then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 2000. The Kims have used the US as their boogeyman for decades in order to justify their massively oppressive regime, the last true Stalinist tyranny left.
Even their allies in China seem embarrassed by their latest outburst. In a subtle but clear rebuke, Beijing specifically scolded the DPRK in its “everyone settle down” response:
China’s Foreign Ministry called for calm and restraint and a return to six-party talks, but effectively singled out North Korea, urging the “relevant party” not to take any steps that would raise tensions.
“We hope the relevant party can remain calm and act and speak in a cautious and prudent way and not take any steps which may further worsen the situation,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a regular press briefing.
Too late! There’s a reason why China wants Pyongyang to pipe down — their influence on the DPRK is one of the main reasons why the US engages China on Pacific Rim security. It’s not that we wouldn’t engage them economically otherwise, but China’s ability to wheel and deal in the region depends largely on whether they can keep Kim on a leash. And lately, China is looking weak:
North Korea has rejected proposals to restart the talks aimed at reining in its nuclear capacity. The United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas are the six parties involved.
“After all these years and numerous rounds of six-party talks we can see that China’s influence over North Korea is actually very limited. All China can do is try to persuade them not to carry out their threats,” said Cai Jian, an expert on Korea at Fudan University in Shanghai.
That doesn’t help, especially with an upcoming transition of power in Beijing in March. It seems clear, though, that Kim and his clique aren’t listening to Beijing. Either they really want to set a match to the powder keg, or they believe that the only way to get concessions is to make wild threats. Since they’re not irrational or non-rational, I’m guessing it’s still the latter — but at a certain point, those two paths are going to converge, and the US and its allies will be faced with some very ugly choices.
Update: A commenter suggests, tongue firmly in cheek, that the North Koreans may have been offended by the Red Dawn remake. Wasn’t everyone?