Monday, October 16, 2006

Hold the applause on North Korea

While President Bush and his administration are giving themselves high fives for their diplomatic victory against North Korea at the United Nations, let’s keep in mind what the sanctions didn’t address on Saturday – the demise of North Korea, which means, for the foreseeable future, Kim Jung Il will continue to menace the world in general and the United States in particular.

China, North Korea’s best ally, sharing a border with the rogue state that’s about 880 miles long, has every reason to support Kim Jung Il. While Beijing may have lost some respect for not being able to control their stooge in Pyongyang, their interest in mining North Korea for gold and other precious metals supersedes anything they lost last week.

The Chinese have their eyes on the country’s natural resources and are prepared to pay North Korea for the rights to mine them. China will sell these precious metals. North Korea, for that matter, needs assistance bringing these natural resources to market; in addition, Kim Jung Il knows that whatever payment he receives from the Chinese will prop up his regime.

China will talk a good game about enforcing the U.N.-approved sanctions against North Korea, but don’t expect them to lead the charge, let alone do much. In addition, China views North Korea as part of their area of influence. As The Economist reports, Beijing considers a unified Korean peninsula a potential threat to national security. They prefer a divided peninsula because it maintains their influence with Japan.

To be sure, some damage has been inflicted on North Korea. Kim Jung Il’s favorite bank, Macao-based Banco Delta Asia, has been pressured by the United States to shut down or freeze the accounts of the North Korean leadership. This certainly crimps Kim Jung Il’s style but not so much that he feels his days are coming to an end.

So, essentially, very little progress has been made against North Korea. The only thing that’s likely to bring the regime to an end is either a U.S.-led war or a charge led by renegades inside North Korea. Neither is on the horizon.

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