In an earlier post on Korea and in the comments thereto, it was pointed out that recent US actions such as sending an anti-missile system to Guam were probably being viewed by the DPRK leadership as consolidating a US first-strike capability, notwithstanding the MSM narrative that they were defensive in nature. It is even possible that the act of exempting the “Foal Eagle” joint US-ROK military exercises from the sequester could be seen as a provocation.
Now two days ago the Pentagon acknowledged that it may have “amped up” tension on the Korean peninsula by announcements of military deployments (if not the deployments themselves), and would attempt to be more measured. Then yesterday it announced the “postponement” of a long-planned test of a Minuteman ICBM so as not to exacerbate tensions.
But the fact is that the ICBM test never had anything to do with the Korean situation. It was simply part of an on-going consolidation of the US general nuclear capability that certain neocons of the PNAC stripe accuse President Obama of undermining. The cancellation certainly costs the consolidation little if anything, and only someone who believes the rhetoric that the DPRK leadership is irrational could believe that it would consider the action as having anything to do with its concerns. The DPRK might be impressed by something like retracting the destroyer that was moved closer to the peninsula last week, but no such move seems in the offing.
This morning the situation was discussed by a policy wonk from the Woodrow Wilson Center, Robert Litwak, on C-SPAN (h/t db). He says that “North Korea is a failed state with nuclear weapons,” and speculates that recent DPRK statements and actions are a matter of Kim Jong-Un consolidating his authority (as opposed to reactions to US-UN hostile actions), but is the first mainstream commentator I’ve seen to acknowledge the point that actions the US views as defensive could be be seen by the DPRK as establishing a first-strike capability. Thus, he says, such measures should be “prudent.” He thinks the US has indeed satisfied this prudence, even though he views the DPRK leadership as “opaque” so that, presumably, its concept of prudence might differ. Not very persuasive.
The DPRK has indicated that April 10 might be a date of some significance, since it has asked foreign embassies in Pyongyang to submit evacuation plans by then (to no avail, apparently) and has now asked all workers from the south who remain in the Kaesong Industrial Zone to leave by then.
Lastly, here are two articles which came up in the thread to the last post that counter the mainstream narrative on the DPRK, one by long-time radical journalist Jack A. Smith, and the other by Felix Abt, a Swiss businessman who lived in the DPRK for seven years.
Update 8:15 Eastern Al-Jazeera is broadcasting a review of this mornings talking heads, and it seems that some of the usual suspects in the US Senate are pontificating to the effect that China should rein in its wayward child. Lots of luck.