North Korea ap­ply­ing textbook method of us­ing force to han­dle po­lit­i­cal dis­putes

New Straits Times - - News / Story Of The Day -

DEAL­ING with a no­to­ri­ous mur­der by det­o­nat­ing a huge di­plo­matic row, and fir­ing mis­siles as a prac­tice as­sault on United States bases in Ja­pan — North Korea’s re­cent ac­tions demon­strate its will­ing­ness to es­ca­late ten­sions what­ever the con­se­quences, say an­a­lysts.

Py­ongyang on Tues­day banned all Malaysian cit­i­zens from leav­ing North Korea, its lat­est move in an in­creas­ingly heated feud over the assassination of leader Kim Jong-un’s half-brother in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing the death of Kim Jong-nam, who was killed last month by two women us­ing the VX nerve agent, but all fin­gers have pointed to Py­ongyang as the cul­prit be­hind the mur­der.

The North has de­nied any in­volve­ment, de­nounc­ing the Malaysian probe as a “smear cam­paign” to tar­nish the coun­try, be­fore the two en­gaged in tit-for-tat ex­pul­sions of their am­bas­sadors.

Daniel Pinkston, an an­a­lyst at Troy Univer­sity here, said the North’s bel­liger­ent re­sponse fol­lowed its textbook method of us­ing force to han­dle po­lit­i­cal dis­putes.

“There is a fa­mous quote in their lit­er­a­ture: if some­one brings a pis­tol, bring a can­non. That’s how they op­er­ate.”

The travel ban on Malaysians came on the same day that Py­ongyang de­scribed the launch of four mis­siles — three of which came down in waters that are part of Ja­pan’s exclusive eco­nomic zone — as a prac­tice drill for a strike on US mil­i­tary bases in the coun­try. The di­rect chal­lenge to Washington comes with a new, fa­mously un­pre­dictable pres­i­dent in the White House who is still for­mu­lat­ing his ap­proach to North Korea.

On the cam­paign trail, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump at times im­plied that ne­go­ti­a­tions could be an op­tion, but in phone calls on Tues­day reaf­firmed Washington’s “iron­clad com­mit­ment” to al­lies Ja­pan and South Korea and warned of “very dire con­se­quences” for Py­ongyang.

“It would seem like com­mon sense to be­have well be­fore Trump sets his pol­icy, but North Korea is just go­ing its own way re­gard­less of the con­se­quences,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a pro­fes­sor of North Korea stud­ies at Dong­guk Univer­sity. Trump talks of achiev­ing peace through strength and the North seems to be ap­ply­ing the same logic, although it can’t com­pete in terms of strength.”

Be­ing blamed for Jong-nam’s killing — Malaysian au­thor­i­ties are still seek­ing to ques­tion seven North Kore­ans over it — could mean tougher in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions, in­clud­ing be­ing put back on Washington’s list of state spon­sors of ter­ror­ism.

An­a­lysts say the feud with Kuala Lumpur is a cal­cu­lated move be­fore Malaysia an­nounces the fi­nal results of its probe.

“This is ob­vi­ously de­stroy­ing bi­lat­eral re­la­tions with Malaysia but I think at the end of the day, that falls fairly low on North Korea’s list of pri­or­i­ties,” said John Delury, a pro­fes­sor of in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions at Yon­sei Univer­sity.

In any case, he added: “Once Malaysia comes to a con­clu­sion and they deny it, they are at log­ger­heads and hav­ing a pub­lic fight about it.”

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