Robert Reich says China is the best hope for a rational outcome to the situation with North Korea:
How to Deal With A Madman with Nuclear Weapons, by Robert Reich: The problem is North Korea is run by a madman who doesn’t seem to mind if his own people starve.
The nation’s survival depends on two to three billion dollars of goods and money flowing in each year in order to feed and clothe the military and prevent a wholesale meltdown of the economy. But it’s already near meltdown.
The administration’s idea would be to tighten the economic vise until – until what?
You see, that’s the issue. Millions of people in that desolate land are already on the verge of starvation. Kim Jung Il doesn’t seem to care. At some point the economic vise could become so tight that even Kim’s military brass don’t get adequate food and clothing, and maybe that drives them to pop him off. But by that time, who knows how many North Koreans will have perished.
Economics assumes people act rationality in their own self interest. But there’s no guarantee of rational decision-making in North Korea, no checks and balances, no high-level council of wise strategists. All power is centralized in Kim Jung Il, who may be nuts. And there’s no obvious successor.
China holds the cards here. China is the only friend Kim Jung Il has in the world. He’s entirely dependent on his colossal neighbor for food and fuel. China doesn’t want his regime to collapse because the ensuing chaos would send millions of refugees steaming into China, and force a takeover of that desolate nation by South Korea. Not even South Korea wants the huge financial burden that would entail – making German reunification look cheap by comparison.
But nor does China want a nuclear North Korea, because that might prompt Japan to adopt nuclear weapons to counter the threat, which could lead to South Korea and even Taiwan to do so, too. If China is smart it will bribe Kim Jung Il to give up his nuclear program.
Kim Jung Il may not be rational, but the Chinese leadership is. And they’re our best hope now for a rational outcome to this mess.