The North Korean regime of Kim Jong-Il resumed its sabre-rattling today, threatening to go to war with Japan if the latter imposed economic sanctions against the DPRK. Earlier, Japan protested that the bones released by the DPRK that supposedly belonged to Japanese citizens kidnapped by the DPRK turned out to be a hoax, enraging Japanese citizens and inspiring suggestions of retaliatory sanctions:
Calls are growing from the Japanese public and politicians for the government to impose sanctions on North Korea after Tokyo said bones Pyongyang had identified as those of Japanese it had kidnapped were from other people.
“If sanctions are applied against the DPRK (North Korea) due to the moves of the ultra-right forces (in Japan), we will regard it as a declaration of war against our country and promptly react to the action by an effective physical method,” a spokesman for North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, monitored in Tokyo.
Kim now wants Japan excluded from the six-nation multilateral talks designed to strip North Korea of its nuclear-weapons capability and stabilize the security situation in the Asia-Pacific rim. This demand intends on unraveling the entire process, since Japan and South Korea are the two most interested parties in the result. North Korea has routinely threatened Japan with attack, and few doubt that a DPRK missile launch would target anywhere else but Tokyo for its first salvo.
This latest wild threat clearly shows that Kim has become desperate to control the outcome of the talks. He needs outside capital to feed his starving nation and to build some kind of economic momentum, but the only way to make that work is either by nuclear blackmail or opening DPRK up to Western influences, since that’s where the capital originates. Kim so far has chosen nuclear blackmail and sees it as a winning strategy, at least in the near term.
Like any other sociopath, Kim lives to manipulate people and systems for his own purposes. Take, for example, the remains DPRK sent to Japan. How difficult would it have been for the NoKos to ID the skeletons before sending them to Japan? Not terribly so, and yet Kim deliberately insulted the Japanese by sending them faked remains, knowing that the Japanese would test the bones themselves. Why? Because Kim knew he could use the diplomatic row that erupted as an excuse to demand Japan’s exclusion from the talks. If the other nations refuse to agree, Kim will walk out of the negotiations, and if Japan withdraws, he will have scored a diplomatic coup.
The other nations in the talks need to start getting on the same page. Instead of South Korea’s insipid response — that sanctions would be counterproductive — the multilateral partners should instead act in concert to get tough on Kim. If China and Russia seriously want to eliminate the nuclear threat that Kim trots out whenever he throws a tantrum, then they need to make clear that any more such outbursts will result in a complete blockade of North Korea, and any attempt at retaliation will bring a swift and overwhelming military response.
Under those circumstances, Kim’s underlings may decide that the continuance of the Kim “dynasty” is no longer productive and remove him themselves. If not, the unity and strength of the message will call Kim’s bluff, and even sociopaths understand when they’re outgunned. Negotiations and dialogue only work when both sides understand that they have a stake in reaching a solution. Up to now, Kim’s only good result is a stalemate, which the multilateral talks have allowed him through wild threats and appeasing replies. It’s time to quit giving Kim his victories on a platter.