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The Grim Realism Underlying the Puzzle of North Korea

In recent weeks, the Hermit’s Kingdom – North Korea has raised the security concerns throughout the globe again. Following the belligerent verbal confrontation between Kim and Trump in August, North Korea’s KCNA just declared the country’s newest success in their hydrogen bomb test, posing new threats to the world’s security.

However, the decade-long effort to revert Kim’s attempt to develop nuclear warhead by imposing an even tougher sanction against North Korea seems to be a dead-end. Moreover, both the USA and China think that the key to resolving the issue is in the other’s hands. The United States holds that China controls the vast majority of North Korea’s export and trade, and it is not complying with the UN sanction against North Korea, whereas China believes that North Korea’s nuclear weapon is already a fact, and the US must negotiate with North Korea. MM00258881

Kim Jong Un Gives Guidance to Nuclear Weaponisation  Source: KCNA

Trump has been trying for months to convince China to impose harsher methods against its neighbour, but one of the grim realisms behind this dead-end is that it is unlikely that China would be willing to resolve the North Korean issue for the time being. True, if the threat of the North Korean nuclear power vanishes, it will certainly benefit China as it would no longer need to worry about the security threat from its seemingly maniac neighbour. However, it has a very different calculation on this matter. Due to the geographical proximity between the two countries, China will certainly suffer a much more amplified risk to its security than the US, once North Korea is provoked by any more progressive measures.

China regards the North Korean issue as a game in which every party involved seeks to suffer the least loss, not one in which every party seeks to gain the most benefits. Therefore, in the near future, China will stay inactive in any progressive participation in the attempt to find a solution to this puzzle.

Some often regard North Korea as irrational, as they carry on their nuclear development in spite of the imposed UN sanction. Yet, this is just another grim truth about the North Korean issue. The nuclear programme led on a harsher and harsher sanction, and has worsened the living standards within the country over time. However, the interest of the agent who really decides the national policy of North Korea has a divergent interest with that of the country; their core interest is the survival of the regime, instead of the well-being of its people.

One can even venture to say, that North Korea will still carry on with its attempt to develop its own nuclear weapon even if its people are plunged into hell. As aforementioned, Kim’s first priority is the survival of his regime. South Korea poses a continuous threat to his legitimacy as the supreme leader of the Korean people and Kim will therefore definitely follow his path of military-prioritised policy (선군정치) and ignore his people’s need for a decent living standard as long as South Korea as a country exists.

Eric Zhang, Class of 2019, is a Politics and Economics major from Shanghai, China.

Featured Image Source: CNBC

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