The Big Fear With North Korea

It looks as if North Korea will “test” fire a missile at any moment. Chances are, the North Korean leadership is not suicidal–and therefore will not deliberately target population centers or military instillations in South Korea, Japan, or even the USA.  But accidents, miscalculations and unpredictable events have caused major wars in the past. That is the real fear.

Experts are less concerned that Pyongyang will preemptively rain hellfire down on Seoul. Rather, they are worried that some sort of limited military provocation would lead to fast escalation on the Korean peninsula. That could be a deliberate attack, or merely an accident of some sort. Two years ago, a North Korean submarine sank a South Korean battleship, killing 46 people. Seoul was restrained in its response to the attack at the time–but may not so restrained this time around.

The good news is that there is growing frustration by non-western members of the Security Council. Yesterday, the Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted, “It is unacceptable that North Korea, a UN member, is boldly and provocatively breaching a UN Security Council resolution.” Then, there is this, from NBC News:

 …President Xi Jinping last weekend told a forum of political and business leaders that no country “should be allowed to throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gain.” He didn’t mention the North by name, but it was pretty clear who he was referring to.

Earlier, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi had told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that Beijing would not allow “troublemaking on China’s doorstep,” a line repeated in an editorial in Thursday’s China Daily.

The real question is whether these calls for restraint by Russia and China will have much of an affect on Pyongyang’s calculations. I fear we will find out rather soon.