May 29, 2009
We’d better face it: this Korean crisis is more ominous than any in the past 20 years or so. The Pyongyang leadership – shaky, bankrupt and fearful of change – is clearly on its last legs. What do Stalinist dictators do in such circumstances ? They flex their military muscle and, if they’ve got it, they detonate nuclear charges and launch missiles, hoping that the much-hated change will somehow dissipate into thin air.
As Europeans, we are not strategically involved in the Korean peninsula. So what better time for the much-joked-about G2 (USA and China) to become operational and solve the Korean crisis ? After all, the Chinese people commemorate 20 years since the Tiananmen debacle next week. The Americans, on the other hand, have troops in the region and have vowed to protect South Korea. Together, the two powers could bring to an end a totalitarian regime that has become a serious menace to world peace as well as to the health and very survival of its own citizens.
From its part, China, as North Korea’s main financial and trading partner, could certainly pull the plug on the regime. South Korean and American troops are also on hand to make sure that the North Korean military menace – which could be a bluff – does not destabilize the peninsula. To be sure, like any decaying Stalinist regime, the Kims have brought this outcome upon themselves by declaring a state of war with South Korea. Already, the Chinese ships in the neighbourhood were recalled, a sign of great displeasure with North Korean warmongering, and the South Korean army is on high alert.
As a rule of thumb, Stalinist regimes do not explode into fully-fledged war, they usually implode. Nobody knows for sure the North Korean generals’ own agenda, not even Kim Jong-il. It is possible, however, that the demise of the current leadership of the country will follow a typically Asian pattern, with a period of transition to normality overseen by the military.
China is therefore called upon to play a similar role to the one the USSR played in 1989, when Stalinist regimes imploded all over Central and Eastern Europe. Then, as now, the United States were on hand to assist with intelligence, logistics and strategic advice. One can only hope that a similar scenario would succeed in freeing the long-suffering North Koreans from the shackles of the worst type of dynastic Stalinism.Florian Pantazi