The US and North Korea’s shifting challenge

NKeconwatch has a great summary of how observers – in particular the markets – are shrugging off the latest sabre rattling, which, together with recent reports of military malnutrition (anecdotally confirmed by myself as an eyewitness in NK) means a diminishing conflict threat.  At the same time, I side with those who see the recent erratic posturing of NK as evidence of severe tension in Pyongyang (coupled with Kim’s known illness).

The CFR has now also rung the alarm bell, though one hopes that the US is far, far more prepared than this report would imply, i.e., its recommendations really should be moot. I mean, if the US has not talked to China about what to do in the event of failed succession, then God help us all.

It should go much further though; the report says that if the NK govt fails, “rapid absorption by South Korea is widely viewed as the inevitable next step”. Anyone who believes the Chinese would let this happen is living in a fantasy world. A US ally, with US troops on its soil, with a border that close to Beijing? Seriously now.

My American friends often tell me that there are institutional contexts which mean we shouldn’t read too much into something like this CFR report. I don’t know, but I sure hope they’re right.

Still no NK envoy from Obama. At least he gave Hu Jintao a courtesy call though. That was nice.

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