Apparently, the North Koreans tested some missiles this morning. And, as you might expect, the reaction from the West (and from the US in particular) has vilified this particular adventure as an abomination of the worst kind.
But before rushing into that trap, isn’t it useful to ask ourselves why exactly North Korea may be doing this? Realistically, we can’t imagine that Kim Jong Il has any long term expansionist plans for North Korea, so what is going on?
Well, look at where North Korea actually is: East Asia is an “interesting” place to be, especially when you have a neighbour the size of China, not to mention a Japan that is starting to think about its longer term future in the region and what that means. It’s also fairly well known that North Korea are not exactly the best friends of the US after being rather lumpenly and clumsily bundled into the “Axis of Evil” by our old friend President Bonzo.
In fact, North Korea finds itself in much the same position (in many respects) as Iran at the moment, except that Iran’s President Ahmadinejad seems to be less afraid to tubthump to rouse popular opinion when necessary. Life is tough when your nearest neighbour is a significant nuclear power, as China is (and Israel in the case of Iran).
Applying what Noam Chomsky describes in his work as the prinicple of universality, we should perhaps ask ourselves what we would do if we were in the position of North Korea. I’m rather sure, in fact, that we would use nuclear testing as a device to remind perceived potential aggressors (the US) and our neighbours that we are not a pushover and further, that we would use such programmes as a lever for negotiation about aid and development packages in a landscape currently dominated by economic sanctions.
And guess what North Korea are doing? Well, pretty much exactly that, yes. In the current geopolitical landscape, north Korea are actually acting quite rationally. And yet the game says that everyone else must stand around, tutting loudly, saying how awful it all is.
Such is the way of the world…