The New York Times today suggests in a recent news story that the shelling of a South Korean island by North Korea is just a way for Kim Jong-un, the 25-year-old son and presumptive heir of Kim Jong-il, to earn some street cred with his father’s military before taking over a year or two from now.
In other words, daddy’s giving his boy the wheel and letting him drive over some bodies. This sounds plausible to me. But does this mean we can all go back to sleep now? Here’s how the New York Times report soothingly puts it:
[T]he North’s attacks have a choreographed character, even a back-to-the-future feel. The last time North Korea engaged in acts this destructive was in the 1980s, when it blew up a South Korean airliner and also detonated a bomb in Myanmar in a botched attempt to assassinate the visiting South Korean president. Both attacks were said to be ordered by Kim Jong-il, who was then the heir to Kim Il-sung, his father and North Korea’s founder. Now Mr. Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un, is in that position. He was promoted on Sept. 28 to the rank of four-star general, a prerequisite for his ascendancy to power. Many see these attacks as the effort of a man the Chinese now say is 25 years old to establish his military credentials.
Choreography is rational, isn’t it? And it’s nice to think that North Korea’s behavior is rational, and that Kim Jong-il and his son are rational. But I wonder if it’s true.
They can’t attack China – they’d cut off the food and probably retaliate. Attacking US forces in their own right would just get them a lot of trouble. Same for Japan. The South, though, has to put up with them in the end.