America Giveth, North Korea Taketh Away

Less than three weeks after America promised to supply humanitarian aid, North Korea announces a missile launch.

Even China is trying to change to the North Koreans’ minds but they apparently have no intention of postponing a satellite launch that is scheduled to happen next month.

Japan, South Korea and the United States have condemned what Pyongyang describes as the peaceful use of space technology. It will use a ballistic missile to thrust the artificial satellite into the orbit while the regime is prohibited by United Nations sanctions from fielding long range rockets.

This follows promises of humanitarian aid from the United States earlier this month. As was pointed out at this website then, the “concessions” that North Korea made — partial suspension of its nuclear program — are unlikely to be honored in the long term.

The North routinely promises to change its behavior in exchange for aid only to backpedal on such commitments later.

In September 2010, the United Nations dispatched several hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assistance, less than four months after North Korean submarines sunk a Southern corvette in the Yellow Sea.

The imperative to supply food and medicine is certainly there. North Koreans are slowly starving to death as a result of their government’s colossal mismanagement of the national economy. This is exactly why the powers that be in Pyongyang must provoke crises regularly; to legitimize their very existence. If there is an imminent foreign threat, the regime can claim that it alone can keep the country safe.

For years, it has been one crisis after another, from nuclear weapons tests to intercontinental ballistic missile launches to the abducting of American journalists to sinking a South Korean navy ship. With a young and untested Kim Jong Un in command, there may be an even higher risk of confrontation if the new leader believes that he must assert himself to win the respect of the armed forces.

The announced satellite launch may be harmless in that there is no military aspect to it (unlikely) but it is another in a long line of broken promises that begs the question — why are international actors, including the Americans, still trying the failed approach of offering aid in the hopes of affecting North Korean behavior?

There is a word for doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. North Korea is not going to change. Will the United States?