walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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Kim Jong-un Lashes Out, a Cornered Animal

So why are the North Koreans acting so crazy? In the last few days, they have vowed to tear up the armistice agreement with the South, taken down the cross-border hotline between the two countries, and put their troops on high alert, awaiting a “final strike order” from Kim Jong-un—all supposedly in protest of a ten-day computer-simulated exercise between the South and the United States called Key Resolve.

We wrote last week that their fraying relationship with China was likely the culprit, and it appears we were right in our assessment. We don’t speak Korean here at Via Meadia so we can’t verify the translation, but the often irreverent Ask A Korean blog is reporting that the coming sanctions are being accompanied by a recent Chinese crackdown on cross-border smuggling, which has sent the price of necessities soaring:

After its third nuclear test, the price of rice in Pyongyang jumped from 5,500 won per kilogram to 9,000 won per kilogram. The cost of other groceries likewise increased by around 70 percent.

That’s potentially a big deal if true. The sanctions which just passed last week were some of the strictest imposed yet on the North—and these sanctions have almost certainly not started biting yet. The young Kim is still an untested leader, even in the eyes of his wretched, brainwashed countrymen, and a wave of nationwide privations to kick off his reign cannot be a welcome development. Though an uprising seems unlikely given how things have gone in the past, rampant famine probably won’t help him solidify his authority.

The real tragedy, of couse, is that the long-suffering Korean people will continue to bear the brunt of the Kim dynasty’s insanity. Though it may be wishful thinking, here’s hoping that this latest bit of brinksmanship may be some of the North’s last. They really do seem to have finally painted themselves into a corner this time.

[Kim Jong-un photo courtesy of AP.]

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