Last week ended with the world wondering how global leaders would respond to the confirmation that a North Korean warship had sunk a South Korean ship, apparently without provocation. We may now have some answers. South Korea is already pursuing a full embargo, with U.S. approval. Here's how the U.S., South Korea, China, and Japan may react.
- Why Kim-Jong Il Ordered Attack New York Magazine's Adam Raymond summarizes the episode: "Not only was North Korea behind the torpedo attack that killed 46 South Korean sailors in March, but now American officials are saying that Kim Jong-il ordered it himself. But why would Dear Leader do such a thing? To reestablish his control and reinforce his right to name his son Kim Jong-un as his successor, of course."
- South Korean Trade Plays Key Role China Post's Arthur Cyr explains, "Seoul's economic leverage is crucial. China's trade with South Korea now approaches approximately US$200 billion per year, compared to about US$3 billion with North Korea. South Korea's government should use this leverage to maximum advantage. North Korea remains committed to cooperation with South Korea in promoting the Kaesong industrial zone just north of the 38th Parallel." The New York Times reports, "South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said that his nation would sever nearly all trade with North Korea, deny North Korean merchant ships use of South Korean sea lanes and ask the United Nations Security Council to punish the North ... President Obama instructed American military commanders to coordinate closely with their South Korean counterparts to 'insure readiness and deter aggression.'"
- Japan Has No Leverage Kyle Mizokami of Japan Security Watch asks, "exactly why should North Korea care what Japan thinks? Japan is the second (or third) largest economy on Earth, only 500 kilometers away, yet has little or no leverage-political, economic, or military-over North Korea. On the other hand, North Korea, a largely impoverished, ruined state, has enormous leverage over Japan in the form of ballistic missiles and WMDs."
- No U.S.-N.K. Bilateral Talks Doowon Lee writes to the New York Times, "Even though diplomacy is the best way to resolve the Cheonan incident, it does not mean that the Obama administration should engage in bilateral talks with North Korea. This is what North Korea has demanded for a long time, and granting it now is equivalent to rewarding North Korea for its hostile action."
- Why War Is No Option The Japan Times says South Korea "has been working with allies and neighbors to build a consensus in favor of action -- not necessarily military action. Even a limited military engagement could escalate and kill thousands of people. The mere prospect of conflict could wreak havoc on the South Korean economy. Instead, Seoul is rallying support for a new round of sanctions against North Korea. Japan and the U.S. are on board. Key to the success of any sanctions regime, as always, is China."
- All Comes Down to China Outside the Beltway's Doug Mataconis warns, "As always with North Korea, this really all boils down to what China is willing to do and how much misbehavior they're willing to tolerate from Pyongyang. Which is why I doubt that much is going to come of this latest round of outrage." The Japan Times Explains, "China is not indifferent to North Korean misbehavior, but it has other concerns. First, it wants to keep a sympathetic government on its border as well as a buffer zone between itself and South Korea. Second, there is fear that clamping down on Pyongyang will force it into a corner and provoke more dangerous behavior."
- End of Korean Cooperation The Irish Times' Patrick Smyth writes, "The only realistic sanction options available to South Korea involve pushing for the North's increased international isolation and cutting back on inter-Korean trade, already in sharp decline in the two years since Lee has come to power. This could end deliveries of sand, a key earner for the impoverished North. It could also close down Kaesong Industrial Park, a co-operative venture just north of the demilitarised zone - an act that would effectively end the 'sunshine policy' of engagement that the South has pursued for decades and with which Lee is not enamoured."