It is too early to guess how the latest storm triggered by North Korea’s behavior might end. Will this lead to a “surgical” strike on North Korean nuclear sites by the United States? Or will it cause “a global catastrophe” as Vladimir Putin, never shy of hyperbole, warns?
If past experience is an indicator, the latest crisis is likely to fade away as did the previous six crises triggered by North Korea since the 1970s. Under the Kim dynasty, North Korea, in an established pattern of behavior, has been an irritant for the US, not to mention near and not-so-near neighbors such as South Korea, Japan, and even China and Russia.
By one reading, that pattern, otherwise known as “cheat-and-retreat” could be laughed at as a sign of weakness disguised as strength.
However, if only because nuclear weapons are involved, one would have to take the provocation seriously. The Kim dynasty has relied on that ambiguity as part of its survival strategy for decades. The strategy has worked because the Kims did not overreach, sticking to strict rules of brinkmanship.
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