We will all forget about North Korea in a few days. This entire “escalation” will be over by April 20-25, according to Andrei Lankov, a professor of history in Seoul University and an expert on North Korea.
“People who talk about an imminent possibility of war seldom pose this question: What would North Korea’s leadership get from unleashing a war that they are likely to lose in weeks, if not days? Even if they managed to strike Japan, the United States or South Korea with nuclear weapons — a big if, given that they do not have a reliable delivery system — they could not save themselves from ultimate defeat” Lankov says.
April 15 was the 101st birthday of the Dear Leader Kim Il Sung. No wonder there are especially elevated patriotic feelings and tendency to flex muscles around this date. So what we’re seeing here is a predictable kabuki theater where North Korea wants to demonstrate to the world its own relevance. They have a new 29-year-old leader who has to establish his bona fides with his own population by engaging in some saber rattling and tough talk. They’ll pump their chest, we’ll pump ours and in a week we’ll all go home and forget about it till next time.
Residents of South Korea and China that live close to the North Korean border have developed a nonchalant attitude toward all this commotion. They’ve seen it all too many times before. So why should we be so wide-eyed about it? “North Korea is decades behind China. How could they start a war?”, one border resident wonders.
Even our most hawkish agency, Pentagon, that just leaked a Defense Intelligence Agency report (DIA is the same agency that was responsible for collecting intelligence leading up to Iraq War) on North Korea nuclear capabilities is hedging its language: “DIA assesses with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles however the reliability will be low.” Moderate confidence? Low reliability? That’s not exactly the war drum rhetoric. Not surprisingly many US intelligence officials are skeptical about this assessment. James Clapper, a top US intelligence official, said about the DIA report: "I would add that the statement [read by the Member] is not an Intelligence Community assessment. Moreover, North Korea has not yet demonstrated the full range of capabilities necessary for a nuclear armed missile"
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who’s travelling to China and Japan, is also skeptical about North Korean nuclear capabilities despite the DIA’s report. “We have lowered our rhetoric significantly and we’re attempting to find a way for reasonableness to prevail here,” Kerry said.
The most down to earth, clearheaded and coherent assessment of the situation can be drawn from this interview with Andrei Lankov, an expert on North Korea, by Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC):
ABC’s TRACY BOWDEN: “Is there in any danger that Kim Jong-un has talked the talk and ultimately may have to walk to walk?”
ANDREI LANKOV: “Why? Is he stupid? Is he suicidal? Is he zealot? Does he believe in any ideology? Does he want to destroy the world in the name of God or whoever? Of course not. He loves his life. He loves his wife. He loves his cars and his toys. He's not going to start a war; he has no chances to win.”
Indeed. Otherwise why would North Korean military personnel wear high heels if they were serious about going to war?