Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Desperate Enough for Peace?

Strategypage writes that Kim Jong-Un is desperate enough to get rid of nukes to survive. One problem is that the North Korean army is increasingly a threat to the regime:

Many officers are desperate and often ask (among themselves) how their leaders could treat the defenders of the nation so badly. No wonder Kim Jong Un is so worried about his military. He cannot threaten his angry soldiers with nuclear weapons and he cannot risk a widespread “purge” of “subversive elements” because so many troops qualify as “subversive” because of their attitudes and desperate situation. Put more simply the military force Kim Jong Un fears most is his own, not the Chinese, American or South Koreans.

I noted long ago that a problem with North Korea's policy of focusing scarce resources on nukes and the secret police to control the army and people was that the army would always be a threat to the government leadership even if the army lost the ability to threaten South Korea:

[If] the regime in Pyongyang is demoting the army, even if it is unable to take on the South Korean and American armies, it will still be strong enough to fight the regime secret police. Downgrading the army will likely set in a spiral of mistrust and resentment on the part of the North Korean leaders and the army. The North Korean army might begin to identify more with the oppressed people who along with them will be stuck with the lowest priority in resources.

And for the army, there was always a risk that the worried leadership that can't afford to feed the army but can't afford to disband all those young men would fling them at South Korea so that America and South Korea would destroy that threat to the North Korean elites:

Could North Korea really afford to abandon what is a large slave labor force that has young men with military training? Better to have a foe inside the tent peeing out than outside the tent peeing in, as the expression goes.

But what if the North Korean regime assumes that the destruction of their army in a futile war is the objective? What if Kim Jong-Un decides that America and our allies would do him a favor by destroying his army while hoping that the survivors and their relatives blame America?

The surviving army would have more resources per person available in theory.

The summit meeting seems to have ruled that option out, at least.

Improving the economy to resist the Chinese seems more important to Kim, and he even looked at authoritarian Singapore's economy while he was there to meet with Trump. I did mention the appeal of meeting in Singapore for that reason.

But as I've mentioned, progress on getting a de-nuclearization deal has to be rapid enough to out-pace North Korean progress in getting nukes. North Korea could stretch the time to get a deal with real interim concessions, but can we verify that kind of gesture with enough certainty?

I really have no idea if this diplomatic track can succeed. It does seem like it might, however, under today's circumstances.