The Puzzle Behind North Korea
The recent rising tension on the Korean Peninsula is puzzling, especially if one considers the fact that North Korea does not have the materials or personnel to fight a war by themselves. Even worse for the Communist nation, their relationship with China has recently come under strain due to China’s reluctance to risk conflict with the United States. North Korea can no longer rely on support from China if war breaks out. Without Chinese troops, North Korea seemingly can not win any conflict that breaks out, so why are they acting so provocatively?
Well commonly cited reason is to solidify Kim Jung Un’s rule. Threatening the foreign powers with destruction could be meant to be propaganda to raise his esteem domestically. When he first took power rumors of government and party officials questioning his youth and inexperience weakened his rule. The threats which are taken to heart within North Korea could simply be propaganda for domestic reasons.
Another possible reason for the rise of tensions could be Pyongyang attempting to get concessions from the West to open trading and get financial help to repair their economy. In recent years the United Nations has increased the sanctions against Pyongyang, sanctions that the North claims has weakened their economy and prevented them from fixing their humanitarian problems. High tensions might allow them to get concessions in exchange for peace from either South Korea or the United States.
Finally they might want lasting peace. While this sound counterintuitive, making moves to suggest war while aiming for peace, considering the position Pyongyang is in, is a smart move. If they raise tensions and make threats then any official peace accord between the two Koreas might benefit the North with money or humanitarian aid. A official and lasting peace accord would greatly strengthen the governments position and solidify Kim Jung Un as the “Dear Leader.”
Overall the North shouldn’t be seeking war, and they are most likely raising tensions to try to get a peace accord or legitimize Kim Jung Un’s rule. War on the peninsula is unlikely and if it does break out the North would quite simply be unable to hold out against the military might of the United States. Circumstances might change, however, if China reverses their current situation announces an intent to back North Korea militarily. Until then, one can assume that North Korea is playing hardball negotiating, nothing more and nothing less.