Monday, October 9, 2006

Banzai ! (Cousin Kim Cult Edition)

El Jefe has been in the bundu, with no internet, no newspapers "...not a single luxury. Like Robinson Crusoe, it's primitive as can be" and I didn't mind it. El Jefe, SWMBO, the Heir and the cats have all been off at the country schloss since Thursday. We have just returned to Ciudad El Jefe and El Jefe is done greeting the cheering throngs, the mayor, and all the good and great. After I've checked into what my servants have been up to in my absence; heard from the heads of the secret police and the State Church, not to mention read the paper and the e-mails, perhaps I shall make fuller comment on recent events. But for now, this abbreviated version will suffice.

To nobody's surprise, the Kim Jong Il regime has gone ahead and tested a nuclear device. Whether the NK's have a usable weapon, much less a warhead that could be fitted to a rocket, or otherwise detonated under other than controlled test conditions remains to be seen. How others will react is also not clear presently, but we can draw some preliminary conclusions:

Big Loser: CHINA. China now has the worst of all worlds: life next to a basket-case country with a population on the verge of starvation -- that now has some sort of nuclear capability. China is North Korea's windpipe, and I expect the Chinese leadership must be mightily tempted to tamper with Mr. Kim's oil and grain supplies. . . but that just got a lot more dangerous. Still, it is not wise to hack off the Chinese. They don't have to worry with happy talk about democracy or non-aggression -- if they want, they can make Mr. Kim very dead. But this is now, more than ever, gambling. If this wasn't enough, the Chinese have to worry about...

Big Loser No. 2: JAPAN. Banzai ! Can you say "Imperial Japanese Strategic Rocket Force ?" Oh, in today's world they'll call it something dishonest and innocuous, like "Japan Self Defense Flower Protection Force" -- but you get the idea. The Koreans, north or south, to put it mildly, do not like Japan -- if Cousin Kim wanted to be elected God-Emperor of Korea forever, he would use his nuke on Tokyo. The Japanese know this, and they are now going to go nuclear, themselves, faster than you can say Tora ! Tora ! Tora ! Full Japanese re-armament is now a certainty, although if the Japanese are smart they will do it quietly, and take extra special care not to hack off the Russians. (Chinese enmity is a certainty, as is Korean, but the Japanese should be careful not to add Russia to this list).

Big Loser No. 3: NORTH KOREA. Okay, the Chinese tried nicey-nice. They tried to show Cousin Kim that the Chinese way (actually the Francisco Franco/Park Chung Hee model) was really the best -- open the economy, make piles of money, and let enough people do well out of it that the downside of no political freedom doesn't seem like such a bad thing, except to a few intellectuals who can be jailed and persecuted without (immediate) economic consequence.
So what's up with the Dear Leader ? Probably he has concluded, correctly, in my opinion, that the Chinese model would not work in North Korea -- at least, work for him. China is not so much communist, but an oligarchy. North Korea is too, but China has no modern counterpart of the god-like Kim family. If the Dear Leader opened up and went the Chinese route, he would probably run the risk of replacement of his family rule by a collective leadership.
The plight of the Kim regime must be dire indeed. North Korea has now seriously antagonized China, its only real friend, and its economic lifeline. Only the desire for a real change in the status quo -- more aid from the west, in exchange for dropping the nuclear program, would appear to justify such high stakes gambling. Unfortunately for the regime, the North Korean cheating on the last set of agreements with the Clinton administration has undercut any real possibility of the West throwing the North Koreans a lifeline.
Watch for some sort of purge of the ruling party. If sanctions go into play, and if the Chinese react in any material way, Cousin Kim will be worrying about the Chinese hooking up with his domestic opponents.
Winner or Loser: US. The media is dwelling ad nauseum on all the reasons North Korea going nuclear may be bad for the US. I'll take a moderately contrarian position, and argue this is not completely clear.
First, the enemy of my enemy (or at least rival of my rival) is, if not my friend, certainly useful. Korean nukes and Japanese re-armament is going to give China something else to think about, and in a world where China is awash in dollars and drunk on nationalism, this is no bad thing. The US has been trying to nudge Japan back into the Great Power game for some time, and it is going to get its wish. How that works out remains to be seen, but Japan is essentially friendless in Asia, and needs the US alliance. Care should be taken, however, not to hack off the Russians. . .
Second, this gives the US even more incentive to wash its hands of the whole Korean peninsula. Jimmy Carter's idea of withdrawing US forces from South Korea was premature in the 1970's, but, considering overstretch elsewhere, is timely now. Think of how much indigestion a US pull-out would cause the Chinese ! But that's a subject for another time.


louielouie said...

Full Japanese re-armament is now a certainty, although if the Japanese are smart they will do it quietly,

they wouldn't want to violate this:

Article 9:
Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. 2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.

sounds to me like the japs signed on to the non-proliferation treaty long before it became fashionable. if they do go nuke now, and do it quietly, they would be just like.........iran.
as for pissing off the russians, all that will do is make them change the name of their country, again, sooner, rather than later.
that far east, they don't know who puken is.
puken has to get rid of that bureaucrat who said he can't run again.
who said anything about running for anyting.
we don't need no stinking "run" for anything.

El Jefe Maximo said...

The Japanese have talked about scrapping or modifying Article 9 for years, and the US has sometimes supported this. Arguibly, Japan, with the 3rd or 4th strongest navy in the world, and a big army and air force, has already "amended" this provision in practice. Yes, yes, they call it the "Self Defense Force," but that's eyewash: there is already an Imperial Japanese Army, Navy and Air Force in all but name.

All countries have "constitutions," which may well differ from the REAL constitution -- we are a case in point, as is Nippon. The Japanese more so than others, I'd argue.

Japan as Iran ? Yeah, maybe. The Iranians are not a problem because they want a nuclear weapon. If Iran had a moderate government and was more or less a status quo power -- maybe just a plain Republic, or a restored monarchy, I do not think we would care so much if they went nuclear. We wouldn't be happy, but we wouldn't be as concerned.

France had a much larger army than Germany in 1935 (rivaled only by that of the Soviet Union) -- but sane people, with good reason, were more concerned about the Germans and Soviets. The French did not want to overthrow the status quo, the other powers did. I don't see the Japanese, today, as being in that position either. They do to well out of the way things are. They're too big and rich for that not to be reflected in the military balance. eventually.

The Japanese seem to be very close to being a nuclear power anyway, in terms of science. I don't think they'll have to do much work to change from potential nuclear power to real.