Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Stick shift

Though I think there is merit in engaging North Korea, there is also something foolhardy in being all carrot and no stick, as I often said of Roh Moohyun. 

In the wake of North Korea's presumed nuclear test, current ROK president Lee Myungbak is showing he is not afraid to apply the stick. 

While the UN Security Council — including Russia and China — quickly condemned North Korea's "blatant defiance," Lee has upped the ante in the real world: He has announced that Seoul will in fact join the US-led effort to intercept shipments on the seas believed to contain equipment for WMDs (weapons of mass destruction) known as PSI (Proliferation Security Initiative). 

This will allow Seoul and Washington, and perhaps Tokyo, to share more intelligence, but it also means that South Korean vessels may end up doing battle with North Korean vessels. That prospect of military conflict had caused considerable debate, but the nuclear test pushed Lee over the edge. 

[above: PSI exercise in Croatia]

Meanwhile, several pundits discuss what to do in the Washington Post. Dan Blumenthal and Robert Kagan tick every possibility off and explain why each won't work in the present situation. In the end, they say we have no choice but to wait it out for Kim Jong-il's physical demise, since his political demise isn't likely to happen otherwise. A WaPo editorial says something similar: the best way to react is essentially to not react

Indeed, what if Kim Jong-il detonated a nuclear bomb and nobody blinked?

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