A couple of the more interesting responses to the North Korean nuclear test. First, from the Daily NK:
It may be that North Korea’s preferred timing for this third test slipped a little, but ultimately they still showed us that they are not about to be moved by international opprobrium, and that they remain largely immune to critical Chinese rhetoric.
Evidently, Kim Jong Eun is a believer in nuclear weapons as the ultimate guarantor of his regime’s security, just like his father was. What this means, of course, is that while he has taken a relatively firm grip on power domestically, anxieties about his long-term survival remain. He and his coterie of advisors are worried that if they let go of the nuclear weapons, world powers will come to regard the regime itself as a bad joke. More UN Security Council sanctions are surely nothing compared to what they may face without nuclear weapons, they think.
In other words, nuclear weapons are an extreme survival tactic, one that sacrifices 23 million people so as to guarantee the power of a privileged few.
Those in Washington, Brussels, London and other world capitals who had somehow convinced themselves otherwise can now be absolutely certain that the leadership’s stance, whereby nuclear warheads mounted on missiles must be the nation’s main goal irrespective of the international sanctions they incite, is not going to change. Pyongyang hopes that repeated long-range missile launches and nuclear tests will slowly, but surely, push the U.S. towards signing a peace agreement, and that they can pick up some economic benefits along the way. Given our full knowledge of this strategy, it is abundantly clear that the Six-Party Talks, which sought the step-by-step denuclearization of North Korea under international oversight coupled to sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, are not a realistic answer.
However, China does remain important. The reason why UN sanctions resolutions have not been particularly effective to date is because China has always held the back door open and supported North Korea to the extent necessary to ensure the survival of their system. But getting angry with Beijing will not help. Rather, our work will have to become more intelligent, creative and persistent. China’s new leadership must be cajoled into accepting that a firm stance on the North Korean nuclear issue is to their advantage.
Which leads nicely to Bronwen Maddox in the Times (£):
Since multiparty talks with North Korea stalled in late 2008 it has become commonplace to say that this is China’s problem to solve. But that is unquestionably the case; China is North Korea’s only real ally, and the only one capable of putting pressure on it. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, China became North Korea’s main trading partner and supplier of fuel and other goods. Repeatedly it has stepped in to provide cheap oil and emergency food and aid supplies when drought or mismanagement, combined with sanctions, have taken North Korea into crisis. Now that most of the world has cut ties with Pyongyang there is little room for most countries to impose more sanctions. But China is the exception — it could threaten to turn off the tap.
In recent years China has played a game of mixed signals, criticising nuclear progress but delving for minerals in North Korea and saying that it does not want to trigger complete economic collapse for fear of a flood of refugees over its borders. The real reason may be that it has valued North Korea precisely because it is a proxy that keeps the US and its allies alarmed.
But now, surely, North Korea has become an embarrassment, and one that justifies more Chinese intervention. As the UN Security Council grapples with the issue, China will come under great pressure emphatically to join the sanctions arrayed against Pyongyang. For the US’s part, the greatest use of its influence is to make that case to Beijing forcefully — that North Korea is a test, perhaps the best there is, of whether China will accept the global responsibilities that come with its new economic power.