My Take

Armageddon? There’s more to Kim than nuclear tests

North Korea is also undergoing economic liberalisation, and it’s likely the world will learn to live with the deterrence of Pyongyang

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 8:43am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 8:43am

As they say, those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it. If so, Kim Jong-un has proved to be an adept learner. The North Korean dictator has a game plan, knows what his endgame is and how to get there. In the end, he may well come out on top, to the chagrin of the Chinese and Americans.

The United States and the West have taught Kim never to trust any of their promises in exchange for giving up weapons of mass destruction, not unless you want to end up like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi. Instead, you should arm to the teeth and make sure your adversaries know it.

It’s a deterrent, not an offensive posture, despite all the Pyongyang sabre-rattling.

Why North Korea’s nuclear test may not be all bad

The Chinese have taught Kim how to introduce market economics without giving up political control and Leninist party discipline. The American propaganda press has almost completely focused on the missile and nuclear tests. What it has neglected to report is that Kim has all along developed not only WMDs but economic liberalisation. The latter is what gives you the whole picture.

His is the latest communist country to follow the well-trodden path of economic development after China, Vietnam and Cuba. The North Korean economy is expanding fast.

The South Korean central bank estimates it grew by 3.9 per cent last year, the fastest in 17 years. Growth estimates of gross domestic product per capita in 2015 ranged from -1 per cent by the Bank of Korea to 9 per cent from the Hyundai Research Institute.

According to a Financial Times report, there are 400 official markets operating more than 600,000 stalls in the North, not counting unofficial or black markets that may account for between 70 and 90 per cent of total household income. Living standards are rising in the North.

While China has been a mentor, its wayward protege wants to assert independence. It is thumbing its nose at Beijing with the latest nuclear test while daring it to stop the aid flowing.

It’s not so outlandish. Israel has made the US dance to its tunes for decades. Perhaps Washington should be more sympathetic to Beijing in this regard.

We may be staring at Armageddon. More likely, though, the world will learn to live with Kim as the North and South normalise relations over time just like the Chinese mainland and Taiwan have done since the 1990s.