If you are familiar with North Korea’s history then you might remember back in August 1976 two American soldiers were killed by North Korean soldiers armed with axes. The event is known as the hatchet incident. It was a move on the part of Kim Jong-Il to consolidate his newly appointed position as the dear leader of the WPK’s Party Central Committee. In 1983; three years after Kim became the head of the politburo, the military commission and the party secretary, there was the Rangoon Bombing. The Rangoon bombing was a terrorist attack in Burma (now Myanmar) where 21 people died including many top level South Korean diplomats and politicians. The primary target was the then president of South Korea.
Fast forward 27 years. A new heir to North Korea has been named. A guy who has lived one of the most sheltered lives in North Korea has been chosen to succeed the dear leader. Kim Jong-Un is according to the propaganda the equivalent in the Korean People’s Army of a four star general. Which is impressive for a guy who has never seen combat, is believed to be about 27 (born the same year as the bombing) and educated in Switzerland. In March a South Korea warship was torpedoed resulting in the loss of 46 sailors. So now we have these artillery strikes on a disputed island in the hands of South Korea. Two Korean military personnel have been killed along with two civilians. The South is taking a hawkish stance to the Northern Saber rattling.
Kim Jong-Un is not leader yet. The Korean Politburo redacted his date of birth to be in 1982 so that he will be 30 years old when 2012 arrives (the expected date where his father will step down). Yet he has very little experience in dealing with international negotiations and needs to be build a reputation among the military and the international community. The primary tool of diplomacy available to the North is the threat of force. It is the primary means to extract aid from the South and Japan. Quick acts of violence and military action further reinforce this strategy. There are two problems now though which seem to face the heir apparent.
One, the South Koreans know he is inexperienced and are now taking a more aggressive approach to dealing with the regime in the North. If they call the North Korean’s bluff and the North stands down they lose their primary diplomatic tactic. Two, the People’s Army; while massive is no match for the modern South Korean force backed up by the US seventh fleet. China has no problems with the defeat of the North. The US and South Korean diplomats have already made gestures guaranteeing a non-threatening unified Korea to the Chinese. China seems to agree if you read the wikileaks diplomatic cables.
So the choices are back down and become nothing more than a paper tiger or start a war which he will lose resulting in the destruction of the state. History repeats itself. North Korea will either be destroyed or will be further isolated, which is something it can no longer afford. I guess the South’s addiction to Starcraft may prove useful soon.