Here at Via Meadia we’ve been skeptical that our recent trade of food aid for the end to a North Korean nuclear program was anything more than an old trick to extort concessions from America, but the Economist is more optimistic. Hailing the recent deal as a “breakthrough,” it notes that the recent succession has altered the dynamics of the situation somewhat and may create openings for long-term change that weren’t there before:
Times are hard for the Kim dynasty. The famine that struck in the 1990s has never fully gone away. The ruling elite is scandalously indifferent to the suffering of ordinary North Koreans—generations at a time pass through the country’s miserable gulags—but it is punctiliously conscious of its own dignity. The longstanding promise that 2012, centenary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the Stalinist who set up the North, would be an era of prosperity, dancing and mass celebration is an early test of his grandson, Kim Jong Un. Indeed, after taking power unexpectedly at the end of last year after the death of Kim Jong Il, it is a test that he must be desperate to pass. A few hundred thousand tonnes of extra food would come in handy.
For now, Via Meadia will adopt a wait-and-see approach. The Big Brains of the national security establishment and the mainstream press keep predicting change in the Democratic People’s Republic, but the past sixty years of history offer plenty of reasons to be cautious.So once again we will try the food-for-nukes deal. It’s not as if we had a lot of better ideas to try. And some day, North Korea will change.