Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Random Shots regarding the Rapid Fire from North Korea

Another nuclear test. That, and more missile launches. They are coming fast and furious.

North Korea poses the prototypical dilemma: talk, and demands escalate; ignore, and actions escalate. At bottom, the North Korean authorities cannot survive democracy, unification or non-. In that, they resemble the Tamil Tigers. As long as China (far less importantly Russia) does not isolate them, they can maintain their nuclear weapons and missile programs. In that, they resemble Israel with its West Bank settlements.

I defer to the experts regarding explanations of North Korean behavior both long-term and in the immediate instance. They all more or less look plausible to me. Barring a Chinese handcuff on North Korea, though, they mostly point to one conclusion: Short of a peace treaty with United States, there’s little reason to believe that North Korea will irrevocably give up its nuclear weapons program. Even that elusive peace treaty thing looks like a dubitable proposition to me; openness of any kind will destabilize the regime there and I don’t think the authorities can tolerate that. They could want the very best for their people, but self-interest will always win out.

By the way, China must be doing a lot of legitimate business with North Korea. Otherwise, we would be hearing more—hell, something—about North Korea’s needs-based activities in the counterfeiting and drug trafficking fields, wouldn’t we?

So what is Japan going to do, other than the inevitable, more UN resolution-based sanctions from a rapidly dwindling table of possible measures? Well, LDP hawks are pushing for the inclusion of preemptive striking power in the new National Defense Program Guidelines which will be released by the end of the year. Leaving aside for the moment the increasing likelihood that very different people will holding the reins of Japanese government by then, their proposal begs the question: preempt what? Unless there’s a way to locate and conduct pinpoint attacks on most if not all of 200 or so Rodongs or the relevant command centers, we’d have to obliterate most of North Korea to “preempt” a nuclear attack. What’s undeniably within our powers in principle does not appear to be feasible in reality.


T. Greer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
T. Greer said...


Have you heard any of the rumors about Aso plans to.remove the 1976 arms export ban?

Can you say much as to the plausibility of these rumors? At first I thought the idea was a bit fanciful - with the election coming up, it would not be prudent for Aso to provide the DPJ with but another route of attack - but that was before the North Koreans had their latest hissy fit. Now I am not so sure that removing the ban would be detrimental for Aso's poll numbers after all.

Am I wrong in this assessment? Your thoughts would be very much appreciated.

Jun Okumura said...

T. Greer: The ban has been eased ever so slightly in recent years to allow export for counterterrorism purposes. So patrol boats to Indonesia for the Malacca Straits are now okay, for example. The LDP “defense” tribe is openly talking about expanding this further, and Taro Aso would no doubt like to see that happen as well. (Likewise, I think, some DPJ hawks. BTW, my position is: Why not?) But the linkage between the recent developments with regard to North Korea and the relaxation of the ban appears too tenuous to make sense to the average voter, though that’s just me sayin’. Besides, any push on this is liable in my view to scare away as many votes thrown the LDP’s way by the Sokagakkai than the gains from rousing any apathetic hawks from their stupor to go to the polls come the general election. So I don’t see that happening any time soon. Having said that, I am not privy to PM Aso’s real thoughts and actions on this, so your guess is as good as mine.