North Korea’s Provocative Summer of Malcontent

Mike Brownfield /

What does it take to keep a small ruling elite in power, living a life of luxury, all while blackmailing the world into sending food to keep a servant population from starving to death?

North Korea has figured out the formula—a combination of intimidation via nuclear weapons and outright armed attacks on its neighbor to the south. Heritage’s James Carafano explains in The Washington Examiner that Pyongyang’s methods—which of late have included the unprovoked sinking of a South Korean naval vessel and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island—are expected to continue:

Most Korean experts expect another round of provocation from North Korea this summer. Pyongyang calculates that “minor” misbehavior leads countries to give it more food aid out of fear that, if they don’t, Pyongyang will do something even more desperate.

But there’s a second reason the North may view outrageous behavior as particularly productive this summer. It might influence elections in the South.

Pyongyang may calculate that the threat of war will prompt voters in the South to prefer a new government that will take a less hard line with the North.

So what’s next? Carafano says that experts expect “that the next North Korean provocation will be creative, something they haven’t tried before.” That could mean another long-range missile test or even a nuclear test—all tailored to sending a message to Japan and the United States.

Carafano recommends that President Obama “should do more than just hope that doesn’t happen. Letting both the South and the North know now that the U.S. is serious about backing up Seoul next time is the best step he could take.”

Read more at the Washington Examiner.