After North Korean leader Kim Jong un took over the reins of the country after the death of his father Kim Jong il, the international community sat up to notice. Amid the brouhaha generated by the death of Jong il, a virtual patriarch of the reclusive state that revels in controversy around adversity, world powers saw some hope of the Communist state entering the international mainstream. A young leader with amiable looks was now at the helm. The possibly Western-educated Jong il’s looks lent him a conciliatory aura, much removed from his father’s serious visage. There was some hope of the new leader reaching out to the West and courting major powers. However, the excitement dampened a few months later when the North’s hubris started to show.
The nuclear device tested by Pyongyang recently in defiance of all United Nations sanctions and world opinion challenged the notion that North Korea has changed. Then came Tuesday’s bluster. A North Korean diplomat participating in a UN disarmament conference saw the ‘final destruction’ of South Korea, Pyongyang’s sworn enemy. The comment, a profoundly undiplomatic one in the least, drew a sharp reaction from almost all quarters. Jon Yong Ryong also threatened the South with further action after the nuclear test. The Koreas went to war in the early 50s which ended in an armistice. However, since no peace deal was signed, the two are technically at war. And it shows. Not on the battlefield but on the battleground of diplomacy and international affairs. Coming out strongly against Washington, the North Korean diplomat said that the United States had carried out most nuclear tests and satellite launches in history and its policy of pursuing UN Security Council resolutions against the North was a “breach of international law and the height of double standards.”
Pyongyang’s foreign policy, if there is any, seems to be veering towards a pernicious agenda. The North might be unable to do even a fraction of what it threatens, but the pugnacity of the state shows it on a path to brinkmanship.
Instead of finding ways of feeding its malnourished population and fighting poverty, the North Korean leadership is embarking on a dangerous course of riling major powers.
The North Korean population is known to live in a state of acute poverty and malnourishment. There are no mobile phones in the country that has in its vicinity the technological prowess of the Japanese, the Chaebols of South Korea, and the manufacturing might of the Chinese. There is hardly any Internet penetration in the country of about 2.5 million.
Pyongyang, led as it is by a young leader, should try to instill a sense of purpose in its policies. Even though very less is known about the inner workings of the administration in the country, a will to reconcile the demands of the nation with the requirements of wise governance in domestic and foreign affairs would likely launch the North firmly on the path to progress•