Archive for April 14th, 2012

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Two Difficult Choices: a Festive Barbecue in North Korea, and the Missile Failure’s potential Influence on North Korean Preference Falsification

North Korea Missile Launch

The Respected Comrade doesn't intend to leave. He is only taking a 90-seconds break.

Main Link: UDN, Singapore

A backup copy will probably remain available on this Australian website (Chinese Newspaper Group), once Zaobao /UDN take their article offline (they usually remove their online articles after a few days).



The failed launch of a missile spells a blow for North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, Singapore’s United Morning News (UDN, Lianhe Zaobao) quotes Chinese scholars, but not a big crisis for the regime. However, China was once again facing two difficult choices, concerning North Korea. The leaders in Pyongyang hadn’t invited so many foreign news people merely because they had been absolutely certain that the launch would be successful, the paper quotes Central Party School’s North Korea expert Zhang Liangui (张链瑰 or 张琏瑰). Another motivation had been to have the foreign press gathered in North Korea at Kim Il-sung’s 100th-birthday ballyhoo(or publicity event). The failed launch didn’t make the regime look good on the surface, but the propaganda machine could still explain to the domestic public that objective factors such as weather conditions were the cause to this, they could still solemnly commemorate Kim Sung-il’s 100th birtday, and even announce another nuclear test and similar measures to inspire the masses. The UN security council would not necessarily pass a resolution to condemn and sanction North Korea, but issue a statement by the president of the security council, condemning the launch of a long-range missile, instead, UDN quotes Zhang. But China was once again facing a difficult situation, as the U.S., Japan, South Korea and others would strongly advocate a security council resolution that would condemn and sanction North Korea. The issue of which China was to adopt had moved into the focus, and the North Korean issue was therefore turning into an issue of China’s attitude.

One choice was that China would support a resolution draft from the U.S. and Japan, which would earn Beijing praise from the West, but offend North Korea; the second was to use its veto power, which would, in Western eyes, gradually turn China into a supporter of North Korea’s extreme behavior, and a representative of North Korea’s interest which would add to diplomatic and military pressure on China, thus gradually deteriorating the environment for China’s diplomacy; and thirdly, and most likely,  Beijing could advocate a statement by the president of the security council, which, however, wouldn’t curry favor with either side.

No matter if a resolution or a security-council presidential statement condemned North Korea, Pyongyang could react furiously, and even carry ot another nuclear test.  If China kept to its established North-Korea policy, or make some adjustments, wasn’t just a matter of diplomatic and foreign policy, according to Zhang, but also a domestic issue [in China].

Huanqiu Net (Huanqiu Shibao online) is quoted by UDN as in turn quoting Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences researcher and North and South Korea Research Center director Lü Chaoshuo (吕超说) as saying that North Korea’s missile launch was a mudded provocation [or, depending on translation, trick, or move], and its [technical] failure had been no great surprise. Progress that had previously been made in North Korean and American relations, and to some extent in Pyongyang’s relations with Europe, too, and which had led to some easing in Northeast Asia, had been reset to zero by the missile launch. It [the launch, apparently], hadn’t been worth the loss [of these achievements].

Also, just as North Korea’s new regime had been established and as everything had been waiting to be improved, considerable energy and funding had been used by the regime to launch the missile. Given the technological limits, the failure had been quite likely. This failure could, of course, influence the North Korean citizens negatively, and from that perspective, North Korea had been unwise.  It should rather focus on rebuilding and stabilizing the country and society.

The Lü quote would contradict the North Korean regime’s own priorities, which would be quite the reverse, if an unnamed Yonsei professor indirectly quoted by S. C. Denney in this Sino-NK commenter thread is right:

[H]e said that because appeasing the military and satisfying the people’s demand for food, energy and a stable economy are mutually exclusive, Kim Jong-un’s inability to satisfy the latter will be his biggest problem (and potential downfall) in the short-term.

Denney’s own view – differing from the academic whose views he extensively describes in his post which lead to the commenter thread, is that North Korea isn’t really unstable. But for some (counter)revolutionary scenarios more in general, he  also linked to a mathemetical explanation of how people make up their minds between the status quo, or revolution – and how many of them may have previously feigned preference for the status quo, owing to preference falsification. Obviously, given that neither the numbers of open dissidents nor the share of preference falsification among status-quo supporters can be measured, that is no tool to forecast revolution or change.

On April 10, Huanqiu had quoted Zhang Liangui (the party school professor quoted at the beginning of this post) as asking if China needed to resist North Korea if it chose to Pyongyang indeed launched the missile. The article therefore came three days ahead of the atual launch. China’s diplomacy was to be roasted in the resulting tensions between North Korea and its opponents, Zhang suggested.

That had been a galvanizing article last week, Adam Cathcart, also on Sino-NK, noted on Friday. Zhang had described five scenarios in which China, North Korea and all other stakeholders taking different steps to handle the launch, all of them creating different constellations – but in neither of those, China would escape the barbecue.

Zhang’s five barbies have apparently since – after the launch – boiled down to two difficult choices, if the above UDN article quoted him correctly.

Meantime, South Korean warships have searched the failed missiles’ debris in the Yellow Sea, probably to steal the technology.



» Vows of Loyalty, ABC News, April 14, 2012
» Obama: Not really good at it, Telegraph, Apr 14, 2012
» Say it through the Papers, Dec 25, 2010


%d bloggers like this: