Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Dangerous Chess Game

Yesterday it was quite scary to see North Korea provoking the South
just across the border.

Dear Leader Kim Jong-il must be trying to show the world he still has
some power left in him, as well as shocking the United States a few
days ago when an American scientist who visited North Korea recently
reported it has built an ultra-modern nuclear energy facility capable
of enriching uranium.

This latest skirmish is considered the most serious since the Korean
armistice was signed 57 years ago.

Kim is testing the waters to see how far he can rattle his sabre and
get what he wants.

Meanwhile big brother China is very annoyed it was not told ahead of
time about this attack and now all eyes are on the mainland to see
what it will do to deal with this literal loose cannon younger
brother.

US President Barack Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak
agreed today to hold joint military exercises in the hopes of
preventing the North from escalating attacks. This includes the US
sending an aircraft carrier and several ships to the region as a
signal to North Korea and to China that it must do its diplomatic duty
to the region and the world to keep its ally in check.

China is in a tight spot. It must criticize North Korea for provoking
war, but at the same time not push too hard otherwise North Korea
could escalate its actions further.

"China's relationship with North Korea is one of the factors pushing
Japan, the US and South Korea even closer together," said Professor
Hideshi Takesada, executive director of Japan's National Institute for
Defense Studies. "I expect this trend to continue... the whole
atmosphere is changing and we need to strengthen our discussions."

So far China is trying to get North Korea and other nations back to
the table of the six-party talks. But China has been always been
promoting this even in times of relative peace. Yesterday's skirmish
that left two people dead is a setback for China's diplomatic efforts.

Sun Zhe of Tsinghua University says, "North Korea is a diplomatic
negative asset for China. Every time it does something, the world
thinks China's backing it."

He suggests that China use this opportunity to get the North and South
talk directly, while other mainland experts say the attack was a ploy
by the North to "force" the US into direct talks.

"North Korea is actually keen on talks, but found that the US and
South Korea are not well motivated," says Xu Guangyu, a senior
researcher for the China Arms Control and Disarmament Association in
Beijing.

Who knows what will be up Kim's sleeve next. In the meantime the world
will have to watch and tread carefully.

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