Nuclear arms are more shield than weapon, so long as no one is suicidal.
BERLIN - The world better get used to it: North Korea is a nuclear power and will remain one. Dictator Kim Jong-un has drawn the main lesson from the Cold War – a country with nuclear weapons will not be attacked.
That doesn’t, however, mean that North Korea can act any way it wants. Even a destitute state plagued with existential supply needs and a hopelessly outdated infrastructure has to observe certain rules, like not crossing their powerful – and only – ally, China.
Beijing expressed “regret” over North Korea’s plans to restart its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, which – allowing for the diplomatic phrasing – is a clear statement. Pyongyang should already have taken notice when China voted in the United Nations Security Council for stricter sanctions against the Stalinist country.
Kim Jong-un must avoid overstepping the mark. The ruler of this immature, pre-modern society is rattling the saber for show on the world stage while behind the scenes he attempts to remodel a country, particularly economically, that so far as not benefitted from globalization.
Kim may suffer from delusions of grandeur, and may be an incurable autocrat even as he suffers from myriad inferiority complexes – but one thing he’s not is suicidal. He wants to save his “dynasty” as he steers his country into the modern era – transforming the country while retaining power. And because they too stand to lose a lot if they don’t, most of the North Korean apparatchiks will go along with him.
However, for that transition to happen without popular uprisings, or indeed a revolution, he needs to keep up the bellicosity towards the outside “enemy.” That there is no enemy is not something the people of North Korea can know – for generations, all they’ve only known is what the Kim dynasty has told them.