Tuesday, November 23, 2010
North Korea Provocations: Completely Predictable
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently said that North Korea remains predictable in its unpredictability. Mullen’s view is incorrect: North Korea’s unprovoked shelling of Yeonpyeong Island combined with its deliberate revelation of a formerly secret uranium enrichment facility are totally predictable. The North has a simple goal: They want legitimization of their regime (and indirectly the North’s next “beloved leader”) by being treated as an equal at a negotiating table with the United States. North Korea has learned well the lesson of all totalitarian regimes: aggressive behavior brings more rewards than cooperation. The shelling of Yeonpyeong Island (almost next door to South Korea’s international airport) was made even more predictable by the limp response to the North’s sinking of a South Korean naval vessel with substantial loss of life and national grief. It is now clear that the North is confident that renegade behavior can only result in benefits and no costs. This is a dangerous position for South Korea and the United States to be in, but both have themselves to blame.