North Korea: a silver lining

30 05 2009

BrendanTaylorby Brendan Taylor, ABC Unleashed (27 May 2009)

North Korea’s second nuclear test has drawn widespread international condemnation. Yet in the short run, little will change as a result of this development.

The international community will almost certainly impose a fresh round of sanctions against Pyongyang. But these measures will be very hard to enforce and will have little impact on a paranoid and reclusive Kim Jong-Il regime that seems intent on becoming Asia’s newest nuclear power. Ultimately, the world will have little choice but to try and coax North Korea back to the negotiating table. Another deal will be struck, which will subsequently be broken. In this nuclear crisis, the more things change the more they really do seem to remain the same.

Notwithstanding the international criticism which has been heaped on North Korea as a result of its latest nuclear test, however, the enduring ramifications of this development may not be altogether negative. Indeed, when viewed from a longer-term strategic perspective, there are at least three good reasons as to why there may well be a silver lining to the metaphorical mushroom cloud which currently lingers following Pyongyang’s latest provocation.

First, the nuclear test can only be good for relations between China and the United States….

Second, the North Korean nuclear test will also create further diplomatic distance between Beijing and Pyongyang…

Third, the North Korean nuclear test has also further diminished the prospects for any near-term reunification of the two Koreas…

Japan, however, seems destined to be the biggest loser in all of this. North Korea’s nuclear test will serve to further deepen Tokyo’s sense of insecurity vis-à-vis the missile and nuclear threat posed to it by the North. That is why Japan has taken such an assertive stance in responding to the test and why Tokyo is seeking tough measures through the United Nations…

See the full text here…

* Dr Brendan Taylor is a lecturer in the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University. He is the author of American Sanctions in the Asia-Pacific (Routledge, forthcoming 2009).

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