The Perilous Case of Kim Jong Il

By Green, Michael J. | The National Interest, September-October 2009 | Go to article overview

The Perilous Case of Kim Jong Il


Green, Michael J., The National Interest


These days when North Korea conducts a nuclear or missile test, the preferred metaphor in Washington is to compare Kim Jong Il to a spoiled child. President George W. Bush used to say the North's "Dear Leader" was like a baby throwing food on the floor in the hope that the adults would pick it up. When asked about North Korea during a recent trip to the region, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that as a mother she was already familiar with small children acting out to gain attention. Meanwhile, foreign-policy experts have fought over diplomatic tactics for a decade: Should we engage Pyongyang bilaterally? Multilaterally? Not at all? Journalism's contribution has been a series of depressingly accurate but not terribly prescriptive accounts of how often the U.S. and Asian governments have been reduced to internal squabbling over North Korea policy.

Lost among all the ridiculing of Kim Jong Il and the fights over the shape of the negotiating table is one unmistakable fact: North Korea has deliberately made itself more dangerous over the past fifteen years. It has increased its missile arsenal, the capabilities of its weapons, and its chemical, biological and nuclear programs. And now the rapid physical demise of Kim Jong Il adds a new element of uncertainty.

It is possible that the world will be blessed with a peaceful collapse of one of history's most horrific dictatorships and that 23 million suffering North Koreans will gradually unify with their prosperous, democratic cousins in the South. But I wouldn't hold your breath. We are more likely to pass through three dangerous stages with North Korea before arriving at that long-desired end on the peninsula. We are already entering the first phase: a North Korea armed with weapons it is brandishing, this time not to barter for food or gain attention, but instead to alter the security structure of Northeast Asia by using the threat of further proliferation to demand recognition as a nuclear-weapons state. Engaging with North Korea now will likely be volatile and unpredictable as a collective military leadership struggles to sustain internal discipline and external leverage in a post-Kim Jong Il world. The second step will take place when the regime inevitably begins to collapse and the United States and its allies and partners in the region face the prospect of loose nuclear weapons and massive humanitarian crises. And then there is the closing act: settling the terms for a unified Korea; a perilous geostrategic game to say the least. All great powers will be competing for dominance of the peninsula--as they always have.

The United States has the capacity and the relationships in Asia to manage all three stages of North Korea's dangerous demise, but it will require a careful and disciplined balancing of diplomatic engagement, sustained containment and joint regional preparation for unification. Our North Korea policy doesn't need to be the losing battle of more pessimistic imaginings.

North Korea has long understood the value of a nuclear deterrent. Convincing the regime to abandon decades worth of successful policy this late in the game will be nigh impossible. At every turn of negotiations--from the first North-South denuclearization accord of 1992, through the infamous Agreed Framework of the Clinton administration, on to the six-party talks of Bush and finally the Obama administration's hopefully short-lived promise of unconditional engagement--Pyongyang has continued to ratchet up tensions, break negotiated settlements, bolster the coercive capabilities of its nuclear deterrent and bide time.

And the North has managed to develop an impressive arsenal. It now has over one thousand missiles, including more than six hundred Scud missiles capable of hitting South Korea and more than three hundred Nodong missiles that can hit Japan and U.S. bases on the island nation. Though North Korea has failed in several attempts to put satellites with its longer-range missiles into orbit, many analysts think the North will be able to range Alaska and Hawaii within a few years. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Perilous Case of Kim Jong Il
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.