Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Edward Luttwak has an article praising the South Korean military for taking a harder line on the North. While hindsight is perhaps 20/20, he does (somewhat indirectly) make a good point regarding the complicity in which third parties empower the image of the DPRK.

'But accompanying Richardson was the supposed North Korea expert Tony Namkung (he has claimed he has been there 30 times -- always a bad sign) who played the "useful idiot" role to perfection, with the added resonance of speaking from Pyongyang itself. Regarding the imminent Yeonpyeong live-fire drill, his words only added credibility to Northern threats, while seeking to undermine Southern resolve: "There is no doubt in my mind that there will be a [North Korean armed] response," said Namkung. "The only issue is whether they will once again target civilians [as well].… the [North Korean] military has said that there can be no forgiveness, period."'
 While it would be unwise to completely ignore the rhetoric issuing from Pyongyang, it is important to view such language within the larger historical context. Sensationalizing news sources like Fox and CNN only empower the regime by playing up their threats. In this context, it is useful that the DPRK is so closed. Were they aware of the gravity with which international media outlets report their threats, they might feel more pressure to make good on them.

The situation on the Korean peninsula now, as ever, rests on credible deterrence by all sides. Tough talk is a large part of this situation and should not be blown out of proportion. It tilts the deterrence in North Korea's favor and makes my family and friends back home unduly worried.

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