Friday, 9 September 2016

This Latest Nuclear Test is a Sign of North Korean Weakness

North Korea seems to have detonated another atomic device. It may even be nuclear. It certainly seems to have been a larger explosion that those of the past. This is now its fifth such test.

And yet for all of its usual bluster that it has mastered the miniaturisation of the nuclear technology and of ballistic missiles, there are clear signs that this is a regime that is tottering. This is a house of cards ready to fall. This latest test, a show of defiance, may be a sign of something else entirely: of a regime that is starting to panic that it may be about to fall.

It is clear that the Fat Leader has struggled to assert himself since he took over from his father. He has been conducting purge after purge and doubling down on the rhetoric and the testing of ruinously expensive nuclear and missile technology. But this is the classic tactic of dictators. Create a foreign bogey man to unite your country behind you. The problem is that North Korea has been blaming its woes on the rest of the world, specifically America for decades now. People are not stupid, however much propaganda they may be subjected to. They can see the lack of food, they can see the lack of the staples of a modern economy. For those who get a glimpse of the outside world, via whispers and smuggled DVDs, they know that their country is hopelessly backward. They will be all too well aware that this is a consequence of their own government's folly and nothing to do with anyone else.

Recent defections of leading diplomats are showing that cracks are appearing in the regime. Many are choosing to defect before they are executed. The Fat Leader has been ramping up those executions and purging his ranks. But there is only so far that these can go before they become counterproductive.

There were reports today that The Fat Leader has banned sarcasm. That is telling.

The so called international community will issue ritual condemnation today. The UN Security Council will meet and probably institute further sanctions and condemnations. But if they actually push hard this time the prize of a fallen North Korea is attainable. The problem as ever is China. Does it want North Korea to fall and maybe even to reunify with the South? It however has no control over the North and must be worried that whatever it does the North is heading for a fall anyway.

Whatever it now says the North is incapable of launching ballistic nuclear missiles at anyone at present. Each of its tests take months to prepare. Its missiles, though certainly improving, similarly take days or weeks of careful preparation. They go wrong as often as they go well.

It is a time honoured strategy to try and win concessions. But it has not been working now for years. The pressure is growing on the North and its wiser heads realise this. The Fat Leader however is incapable of a show of humility and a change of course. That is his fatal weakness. He has never established himself as de facto leader. One more push and he will fall.

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