Distracting Japan? and other theories

North Korea's missile game, timed on July 4th in US (in fact it was July 5th local time), was widely read as an open provocation on US. More people believe it was a coincidence, but you never know what has gone through the minds of these crazy people. Conventional wisdom sees this as a bizzarre way of attracting attention and negotiation strategy. But I do not buy it.

There are other theories:

1) South Korea's scientific survey ship has arrived at Dokdo around the same time, conducting its 'survey'. News has been submerged with the missile "crisis". This explains why 7 useless out-dated Scuds were fired endlessly, and that the real focus, Taepodong-2, was a total fisaco. Perhaps that was intentional.

This may be a successful collaboration of the Korea's about Dokdo. But definitely not a good move for NK in the long term. It provided Japan with the excuse it needed to re-arm, and it was a major slap on China's face, especially after China openly appealed for NK not to do that.

2) The most plausible theory is that these missiles are for "internal consumption", i.e. This can be read as a sign that Kim Jong-il's power is in jeopardy. In order to tighten his control, KJI needs foreign pressure so that within DPRK his team would stick together. The best way to attract foreign pressure is to provoke responses. (See Guo Jia's advice to Cao Cao)

3) (Update Jul 7) NK Zone listed a few theories, including the 'conventional wisdoms' discussed above. But there is a much simpler explanation. Maybe NK has already invested so much resources into it, and it really want to see its toys work? (the timing is controlled by the fact that the fuel for this TPD-2 cannot be stored and has to fired within a month after preparation). This explains why it has gone ahead no matter what, but did not fully explain the other 5-6 smaller missiles.

4) (Update Jul 11) The Economist has a very plausible explanation. It believes that the launch was used to prove to other countires, potential buyers of the missile (ie Iran), that the technology works

N Korea does have its right to test the outdated gadgets (Scud, Rodong). It also has the right to develop its own Taepodong. It should, however, at least warn the fishermen in the area. Anyway, the damage, to NK itself, far outweighs any benefit it could justify, even if you count the distraction on Japan. Expect China abstaining, or even supporting all the UNSC motions propopsed by the US.

1) Financial advice: buy time for the financial market, as there is absolutely no reason to sell for such insignificant naughtiness.
2) Compare Japan's hysteria with more rational reaction from Russia and China



Anonymous said...

The biggest loser in this scenario is China, because the DPRK has now put China in a box - this will severely limit China's options in dealing with the DPRK, because China cannot appear soft or sympathetic to NK after this episode, not only because of world opinion, but because China will not want to fuel Japan's rearmament fever.

Sun Bin said...


I wonder what China's response will be. Sanction does not work, as NK is so disconnected already. Specific sanction (on anything that may be used in the missile, that would include many categories of metal, electronics, chemical, and bascially a lot of things) will just open China (and Russia)'s door to UN inspection. i.e. these are sanctions against China and Russia.

Of course China would prefer to deal with NK with its own method, though there may not be any plausible approach China could take. I would just halt and slow down all those aid trains, and cut the power intermittently.

Anonymous said...

It's going to be tough to come up with an appropriate response. While cutting or slowing aid is certainly an option, that just hurts the general population who are living in extreme poverty anyway. You know KJI and Co. will take whatever they can, "regular people" be damned.