Apparently, Nth Korea has just exploded a nuclear weapon. Not good. I think John Howard gave the appropriate response when he said:
“We are outraged that a country that has to rely on the international community to feed its own people, and to bring them back from the brink of starvation, devotes so many of its scarce resources to missiles and nuclear weapons progress”
That a nuclear Nth Korea is a problem is universally agreed. What to do about it is another matter. The complicating factor is that Nth Korea’s one million troops and artillary could easily overwhelm and destroy Seoul before major powers could get into the fight.
The country most worried about a nuclear Nth Korea is Japan — a country with relatively bad relations with all of it’s neighbours and America’s best friend in the area. In turn, China and Sth Korea fear that a nuclear Nth Korea will give Japan an excuse to pursue it’s own nuclear project, or at least to expand it’s military options.
Given the mounting tensions between Japan and China for economic dominance in the region, the growing military strength of China and Nth Korea’s bomb, there is a possibility of a Japan-China arms race and an Asian Cold War. There is little love between the two big Asian powers, with China still upset about past war-crimes and Japan unhappy about being lectured on human rights by an oppressive dictatorship.
While this is worrying, I think that any China-Japan rivalry is manageable as their economies are becoming increasingly reliant on each other and a growing Chinese middle-class will eventually start to demand (and receive) greater human and political rights. A democratic China will be a better neighbour than the ultra-nationalist “Communist” (sic) version.
But it is harder to be optimistic about Nth Korea. They are already isolated and there is no middle class. It seems that the only solution is regime change. The vulnerability of Seoul, current over-extention of the American military and unwillingness of China & Russia make a direct attack difficult to justify. Ideas anyone?