Parry calms our concerns about madmen running the nuclear-armed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) with this assessment:
If one places themselves in DPRK shoes and looks around, one discovers that the nation is surrounded by well-armed, powerful forces that would intervene in the affairs of the country if they could. The goal of the government is to insure that any such intervention would result in an unacceptable level of pain for any adventurous nation. One of the best ways to forestall any intrusion in your affairs is to possess nuclear weapons and threaten to use them.
A crisis occurred in 1994 when the DPRK threatened to obtain nuclear material for a weapon from reprocessed reactor rods.
"The result was the Agreed Framework, an elaborately programmed sequence of reciprocal steps under which an international consortium would provide North Korea with ‘safe’ nuclear reactors, fuel, political normalisation and economic engagement, in return for a nuclear freeze and eventual disarmament."
"There was bad faith on both sides. Even as it shut down the reactors at Yongbyon [reactor], the North was secretly enriching uranium elsewhere. But the Agreed Framework averted war, placed Yongbyon under international monitoring, and prevented the construction of two much bigger reactors which would have provided enough fuel for thirty nuclear warheads every year."
While not an ideal situation, it was viewed as a means of buying time until the North Korean government either collapsed, or came to its senses.
The list of dumb things attributed to the presidency of George Bush is so long that most people tire before adding his disruption of this delicate balance between the DPRK and the rest of the world. When he coupled North Korea with Iraq, and Iran as an "axis of evil," the message he sent was interpreted as a threat to take preemptive military action.
"Human rights in North Korea became a political weapon, wielded by the right as a means of undermining those, including the elected government of South Korea, who favoured continued engagement."
"Clinton had prepared, reluctantly, for war; having averted it, he had energetically concluded three separate diplomatic agreements with North Korea, with a fourth (on limiting ballistic missiles) in the works. After four years of Republican government all those agreements, and the safeguards they incorporated, had collapsed, with nothing to take their place. This was the sum achievement of George Bush, foe of rogue states and protector of the nation: to allow the world’s most isolated government to acquire the Bomb."
Victor Cha was a member of the team that eventually participated in the six-party negotiations. In the course of those discussions he received this message from the other side of the table:
North Korea has the bomb and is issuing statements about all the terrible things it could do. How concerned should we be?
"The noises from the North are widely misunderstood. They are not unilateral threats of war, but promises of retaliation in the event of US and South Korean attack. (This gets lost in much of the reporting because of the famous verbosity of North Korea’s official communiqués: the threat is quoted, while the balls-aching conditional preamble is cut.)"
Parry reminds us that in spite of all the threats, charges and countercharges, the Korean situation has been rather stable compared to other regions in the world.
He thinks this state of not quite unstable equilibrium will continue indefinitely.
"The sorry truth is that North Korea’s state of political undeath suits the most powerful players in the game better than any alternative."
China is the one country that could force the North Korean rulers to toe the line by withholding the economic necessities that it allows to flow across the border. But it is in their best interests to maintain the status quo.
It seems the only ones with a vested interest in a change of government are the long-suffering North Korean people.