Monday, January 31, 2005

"I'm so ronery..."

Michael Sheridan in the Times lays out a grim prognosis for the survival of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il:
According to exiles, North Korean agents in Beijing and Ulan Bator are frantically selling assets to raise cash — an important sign, says one activist, because "the secret police can always smell the crisis coming before anybody else".
It's time for Tony to award himself another point for his foresight.

What will happen now? Like Saddam Hussein, who suffered three revolts between the end of the Iran-Iraq war, this pressure on the regime could result in external aggression so as to unite the leadership and people in a war scare. Although a second war on the scale of the Korean War could cost a million lives and a trillion dollars by most estimates, I wouldn't expect a full conflict. Provocation is more likely to come from a small-scale act that's hard to ignore, but finely-tuned to avoid fostering a consensus for action between China, Japan, South Korea and the US.