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.