February 28, 2003

This Sounds Familiar:

On February 20 I posted the following regarding the possibility for escalation on the Korean peninsula:

North Korea is clearly intensifying the situation on the peninsula. Initially, I think everyone agreed that the North was being obviously opportunistic: reactivating its nuclear program in an attempt to leverage the Iraqi situation and extract economic and energy concessions from the West.

But if you’ve been tracking the rhetoric, you notice a recent and disturbing trend. Statements by the official news agency are increasingly threatening. They talk with greater frequency not of a willingness to fight, but of a readiness to fight … not simply of a commitment to self-defense, but of an ominous willingness to incur a “catastrophic explosion” of conflict.

You can take this language literally or metaphorically. But match it with an effort to establish allies among NAM states and the first air incursion over the DMZ in 20 years, and you have to wonder if the North is accelerating its efforts to force the Bush hand.

The timing is obvious … but what of the trigger? Most commentators have claimed the North was simply attempting to create diplomatic pressure through the nuclear issue. But given the increasingly aggressive posturing, I have to wonder if the North will force the ultimate hand: wait for engagement in Iraq, create a hot military crisis in Korea, and force the Bush administration to rationalize the reality of a two-front war.

And on February 24th:

It may not be the next incident, but it won't be long until we read of the North firing on a U.S. reconnaissance plane or boarding a U.S. vessel in the Sea of Japan. Kim's leverage now is in actions, not words, and the Bush administration had better be planning for very strategic contingencies. Expect this situation to get much worse before it gets better.

Well, today the Washington Post writes:

Recent military moves by North Korea and the United States could increase the risk of an armed confrontation -- deliberate or accidental -- in the standoff over the North's nuclear program, according to Asian and U.S. military experts.

North Korea has begun supplementing its harsh rhetoric with unusual acts by its armed forces ...

... But other analysts contend that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, has been forced by the failure of diplomatic efforts toward Washington to give his hard-line military generals greater authority. The missile launch and MiG incursion show that the generals are anxious to test the United States by military provocations, these analysts say.

"The North Koreans have used almost all their cards," said Toshiyuki Shikata, a professor of crisis management at Teikyo University in Tokyo. "So they will try to use the final card: They will launch a missile over Japan."

It's nice to have this confirmation ... and again, let's hope we're all wrong.

Posted by Avocare at February 28, 2003 08:45 AM
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