Thursday, April 27, 2017

Where is the Gasoline?

It seems clear that despite military moves that President Trump wants to put pressure on North Korea to get a diplomatic solution rather than go to war. Does North Korea appreciate that limit on our potential actions?

Because this makes me worry:

An acute shortage of gasoline in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang that has sparked price hikes and hoarding is raising fears of potentially crippling pain at the pumps if things don’t get better soon - and driving rumors that China is to blame.

Could China have squeezed the petroleum supply? Sure, China might be behind this. And it would hurt North Korea if China cut them off:

"If China cuts off oil supply, North Korea would not survive on its own for three months and everything in North Korea would be paralysed," said Cho Bong-hyun, who heads research on North Korea's economy at IBK Bank in Seoul.

But North Korea might also be diverting every drop of imported fuel to their war reserve stock.

Perhaps North Korea believes that after more than 60 years of predicting an American invasion of North Korea, America's plans finally came together this year.

Perhaps North Korea doesn't think there is any point to diplomacy because they will never agree to give up nukes, and so a super-mighty pre-emptive strike would do the trick.

So perhaps North Korea believes a military campaign against South Korea that doesn't require a lot of fuel--like bombarding Seoul--could be sustained with what they already have stockpiled and what they are diverting now (if they are) for several months without collapsing the civilian economy; and that China, even if it cuts off oil when North Korea starts a war, wouldn't dare let North Korea fall.

And so in time (within 3 months) would start up the oil supplies, and a whole lot more to keep North Korea afloat and fighting.

Always remember, our rational isn't their rational.

UPDATE: In case it isn't clear:

"There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea," Trump said in an interview at the Oval Office.

"We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very difficult," he said, describing North Korea as his biggest global challenge.

If North Korea knows they will never give up nukes, they could be jumping right to the major conflict part of that statement as the logical conclusion of Trump's position.

Not that there is much we can do about that other than accepting a nuclear North Korea.

And while in isolation it would probably be possible to deter a nuclear North Korea (possibly with the addition of nuclear South Korea and Japan, which would alarm China), with the threat of North Korea proliferating nukes to mullah-run Iran, that's not an option.

I know that China doesn't have control of North Korea. But China might be the only one that can do the job at an acceptable price, as tough (and costly) as it may be for China to pull off.

UPDATE: More on the petroleum issue. And yes, the military (and transportation--which would supply the military) is a major user of gasoline that has become scarce in Pyongyang.